Erika Ettin: In Love And Money

By Erika Ettin
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dating expert Erika Ettin takes a look at what some daters want to know about your financial situation. Is it OK to ask someone about his or her credit score?

Tribune News Service

Last year, I wrote an article about how your credit score may impact your dating life.

It’s funny, when I quit my job as an economist just over six years ago to start my business helping people with online dating, I thought my days deliberating over credit scores and talking about spending habits were over.

How wrong I was.

Back then, when I worked at Fannie Mae, I had to pore over spreadsheet upon spreadsheets of credit data to assess whether or not someone would be able to pay back his or her mortgage. (No surprise: The higher the credit score, and we used FICO, the better the payback.) And now, I have to advise clients on how much credit they should give for, well, their date’s credit.

Just as a credit score is a good indicator of a person’s ability, or inability, to pay a mortgage, it’s also a fairly good indicator of how someone has dealt with money in the past. How they handled finances as a single person, could, in turn, indicate how that person will handle money as part of a couple.

For starters, do people even know their credit score? Unless they’ve recently purchased a car or a home, they may not. In that case, you would need to go to a site like www.annualcreditreport.com or www.freecreditscore.com to get your score. (Generally, a score over 700 is considered good.)

Just like conventional wisdom says not to ask a woman’s weight (and conventional wisdom is correct!), asking someone’s credit score or payment habits on a first date is another one that I would avoid. I also tell my clients to avoid talking about the messy details of a divorce, controversial political issues, and money in general on first dates.

The first date is to see if you have rapport before deciding whether you’re going to have a joint bank account!

These serious topics tend to bring the mood of the first date down, into a deeper, sometimes darker, place.

Last time I wrote on this topic, I referenced a New York Times article called “Even Cupid Wants to Know Your Credit Score,” where it discussed whether someone’s low credit score should serve as a deal-breaker in a relationship.

The choice is obviously a very personal one, but just like we may prioritize religion or education in finding a partner, it’s up to us to determine how important such things are in our dating lives. But, I want to talk about when to even broach the issue.

Refinery 29, a woman’s website to living a stylish, well-rounded life, recently posted an article about a study done by Match Media Group on the topic of credit scores.

The survey reported that “less than 7 percent of online daters said they’d be willing to disclose financial details, such as how much debt they are in, their credit score, income, and spending habits, before meeting someone in person. Thirty-five percent said they wouldn’t want their partner to know about their credit score until a year or later into a relationship.”

A big caveat, though, is millennials. The article says that “millennials may be changing things up and moving toward greater transparency. This study indicated that millennials are more likely than other age groups to ask to split the bill on a first date, and to discuss financial topics via text and online chat.”

In this day and age, we (and especially millennials) seem to track everything anyway, steps per day, minutes of REM sleep, Instagram “likes”, so I guess it only makes sense that this should be added to the ever-growing list.

I know many of my clients are asking questions on a first date, not to get to the finite number of a credit score, but to see how financially responsible and/or successful his or her date is. That is important, but it will come in time. So, stop talking money, and start talking about what you have in common. And if you’re lucky, at some point, money will be on that list.
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(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating)

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