The heart knows no logic, so the brain might want to check out a date's debt.
Fri, 13 Feb '15 | 10:00 AM ET CNBC.com
With 70 percent of marriages ending in divorce due to financial disagreements, those looking for a partner are increasingly popping the big question: What is your credit score?
Surprised? You shouldn't be. Banks, landlords, insurance companies, employers and even Internet providers have been relying on this three-digit calculation to measure a person's character and decide if they want to take a risk on you.
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That's just what Niem Green, founder and CEO of CreditScoreDating.com, thought when he launched his dating website in 2006 after working for a number of years as an underwriter for a bank.
"It was my job to determine if there would be a relationship between the bank and the borrower based on their credit score," he said. "And I started to notice there were similar patterns between the scores and the personalities I would meet. I just thought, what would happen if people were able to date this way?"
According to a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Citigroup, Green was on to something about the importance of financial savvy to a relationship. More than three out of four Americans in a committed relationship, or 78 percent, prefer a partner who is good with money over one who is physically attractive.
The bottom line? These days it's much more attractive to be an 800 than a perfect 10.
"Three out of four Americans in a committed relationship, or 78 percent, prefer a partner who is good with money over one who is physically attractive." -Citigroup survey
The Citi online survey also found that one in four respondents said they would actually prefer that their significant other discuss finances more often, and nearly seven out of 10 have avoided bringing up the topic of money to prevent an argument.
Rachel Sussman, a licensed psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist in New York City, said the theory behind CreditScoreDating.com is sound. "I'm a big proponent of a couple's
talking about finances," she said. "The talk needs to start early on. It still shocks me when I meet married couples who have a hard time talking about it. Usually it's because there's a history of fighting because one's a spender and one's a saver," she said.
Sussman said most people want to be with a partner who's responsible. "When someone's responsible financially, that really says a lot about them," she said. "And being financially irresponsible says a lot about them, too."
Love in the time of terrible credit
Green admits that there are those who have been cynical in the past about his idea of using creditworthiness to find an ideal match.
"My naysayers are people who don't understand credit or the importance of it," Green said. "Banks determine if they will have a relationship with you in, many cases, 90 seconds. I'm not saying that for a perfect relationship you have to have perfect credit, but I've learned that there are certain patterns that indicate if you're trustworthy."
According to Diana Nichols, a credit management expert and president of Gold Key Consulting in Fairfield, Connecticut, "there's definitely certain personality traits that I see when it comes to scores. But, she added, "not everyone who has a poor credit rating is irresponsible." Nichols explained that sometimes there are circumstances beyond a person's control, such as health issues, student loan debt or job loss, that can cause a person to get into financial straits. The credit management expert also believes that "at least 50 percent of credit reports have errors. The system is very flawed," she said.
Sussman agreed, telling the story of one of her clients who is deep in student loan debt from medical school and can't pay her bills. "She's out there dating and very nervous about how men are going to deal with this," she said. "I tell her to just be honest, and if the relationship is getting serious, she should be able to say, 'I have a terrible credit score. I don't always want to have this problem and I know I will overcome it, and this is how I will do it.' "