A single, three-digit number can predict whether your relationship will be filled with domestic bliss or fights and tears.
You and your partner’s credit scores can predict how likely it is that your relationship will last, according to a recent study of roughly 12 million consumers by researchers at the Federal Reserve Board, the Brookings Institution and UCLA. (Thanks to our friends at NextAdvisor.com for flagging this study for us.)
First, the higher your credit score, the less likely you’ll separate from your partner — and the reverse is also true. And for every 105-point increase in an individual’s credit score there is a 32% drop in the likelihood of them separating from their partner. “Couples with the lowest initial average scores are two or three times more likely to separate than the couples with the highest average scores, and the likelihood of separation largely diminishes as scores increase,” the researchers reveal.
The issue at hand here might be one of trust. “Credit scores matter for committed relationships because they reveal information about general trustworthiness,” the research shows — and those with higher scores tend to be more trustworthy (and thus, possibly, better relationship material). Past studies show that credit scores are highly correlated with trustworthiness; the researchers for this study also revealed that there was a link.
Second, the more similar your credit scores going into the relationship, the more likely it is you’ll stay together. A difference of just 66 points between one partner’s score and the other’s means they have a 24% higher likelihood of separating during the second, third or fourth years of their relationship, and a 12% higher risk by the fifth and sixth year (the study looked at relationships over a six-year period).
This cannot just be explained by the fact that poorly matched couples have lower chances of using joint credit accounts, getting new credit, and staying away from financial distress. The researchers speculate that here, too, trust may play a role in explaining the breakup for people with mismatched scores; after all, in many cases, both parties in a relationship need to be trustworthy for it to work. “Mismatch in trustworthiness within a household may affect its stability,” the researchers write.
Interestingly, people with high credit scores are also more likely to get into relationships to begin with. “Those with the lowest credit scores are about 30% less likely [than singles with the highest scores] to form a committed relationship in a given year,” the study found.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans with a less than stellar credit score, don’t panic. For one, plenty of couples with mismatched credit scores or low scores stay together happily. And there are steps you can take to boost your score, including paying off all debts on time going forward, not opening too many new credit lines at once and not taking on too much debt.