If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your credit when you get married, it might be more anti-climactic than you imagined. Technically, nothing happens.
"Your credit and finances don't automatically join when you get married," shares Lauren Bringle, an accredited financial counselor with Self Financial. "In fact, unless you open up joint credit accounts—like what happens when you buy a home together—your credit never has to co-mingle at all, if you don't want it to."
Meet the Expert
Lauren Bringle is an accredited financial counselor at Self Financial, a fintech company with a mission to help people build credit and savings.
However, it’s what goes down after marriage that makes all the difference; when making money moves together, your partner's financial habits can impact your credit standing once you've entered into joint loans so it's important to be on the same page.
Nobody wants to start their married life on the wrong fiscal footing, and when it comes to mapping out your future together, talking about debt is one of the least romantic conversations you’ll ever have. So, we spoke to Bringle about the importance of building credit together and how to make it more fun. Ahead, she gives her advice on navigating the credit conversations and shares tips for building a solid financial future together.
Why You Need to Have the Credit Conversation
So much of a healthy relationship comes down to being open, honest—genuinely listening and talking through each other's wants, needs, and goals. This same rule applies to communicating about your finances, including debt and credit scores. When you're head-in-the-clouds in love, most couples don't come down to Earth long enough to discuss the challenges that come with financial coupledom; as a result, many marriages end in divorce over financial differences.
While all debt can have an impact on your credit, Bringle warns that the debt to watch out for in particular would be high balances on credit cards. A high balance likely means you're accruing interest that could take years to pay off. In addition, how much you use of your total credit limit is a major factor in your credit scores.
Credit is especially important if you share goals like buying a house, getting a car, starting a family, and affording a life together after your wedding day. If you're planning major purchases together, building your credit, socking away savings, and knowing what purchasing options are available to you are essential steps in the process.
Communicating openly and honestly about money and credit, aligning on priorities, and being willing to make changes (and in some cases, sacrifices) as a team are essential steps to show your commitment to a joint financial future.
What to Do If Your Partner Has Bad Credit
Regardless of whether or not you intertwine your accounts after marriage, each partner’s financial health can impact the relationship and the dreams you have together. While it’s not the sexiest talking point, it is something that needs to be carefully considered and communicated.
"It’s important to decide how to tackle financial responsibilities in a way you are both comfortable with as a team if your partner is working on building their credit," Bringle says. "I recommend taking a goal-oriented approach to finances and consider what needs to happen to achieve those goals together."
What to Do If You Have Bad Credit
Before you start digging into your finances together, it’s only fair to check yourself first and evaluate whether the onus is on you to improve your collective credit standing. Building credit takes time, Bringle says, so if you do need to improve your score before buying a home, the sooner you can start, the better.
"I recommend looking over your credit reports to get insights into what steps you need to take," Bringle advises. "For example, do you need to make more on-time payments or pay down debt? If you have bad credit or no credit at all, you could benefit from a tool like a credit builder loan or secured credit card to help kickstart your credit, which you can find online or via mobile app through Self Financial."
How to Build Your Credit As a Couple
After saying "I do," these issues must be tackled as a team. Luckily, having a partner on your side equips you with the best accountability buddy. "Just like you may hold each other accountable for eating healthy or working out, you can support each other in building your financial goals and dreams too," Bringle says. Ahead, she shares her go-to tips for couples getting on the same page.
Find Your "Why"
First, sit down and talk about your "why" and your vision for the future. Why do you want to build your credit? Is it because you want to buy a home so you can start a family? Or get a bigger backyard for your dogs? That vision will help you stick it out when you feel like straying from your goals.
Strategize Your "How"
Once you have your "why," sit down and figure out what you need to do to get there. Pull free copies of your credit reports online and review your credit card statements because your credit may benefit from paying off some debt. Get tools that could help you build your credit and savings to work towards your future down payment on a home purchase, like a credit builder loan for example. And if you do nothing else, make all your payments on time from here on out, since payment history is a major factor in your credit score.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
As fun, short-term spending opportunities arise, such as going out to dinner or to a concert, it’s important to remind each other about your "why" and how this decision may delay it to some extent; that’s not to say you shouldn’t have fun with your spouse! However, it’s vital to weigh the pros and cons of spending in order to achieve your larger goals.
Put The "Fun" in Funds
At the end of the day, Bringle’s top piece of advice for newlyweds is not to get too serious with conversations around money. She encourages finding playful ways to "gamify" budget conversations, like playing "Would You Rather" but with finances, for example.