By JULIE RAINS
Knowing your significant other's credit score is crucial because this number -- and the factors that influence it -- can affect your life together, whether you're young newlyweds or long-married retirees.
But many couples suffer from credit score shyness: a reluctance to learn and share this important aspect of their finances.
According to a 2015 survey of 500 millennials and 500 baby boomers conducted by Credit Karma and research company Qualtrics, millennials were more likely to know how many sexual partners their spouse has had than their credit score.
And married couples of both generations were more likely to know each other's salary, weight and how they liked their eggs than this crucial financial information.
Though sharing can be scary, divulging your number may help you handle your individual and joint finances more effectively. Here are four reasons you should know your significant other's credit score.
1. Credit scores can reveal financial secrets.
You may think you and your significant other are handling money just fine. But your credit scores can indicate whether either of you are having problems you haven't admitted - or confronted.
John Rampton, entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Due.com in Palo Alto, Calif., decided to look into his and his wife Kristy's credit scores when their joint application for a car loan was rejected one month after getting married.
They had discussed their finances previously, and Kristy had told him that she had student loans and credit card debt. But they were surprised to learn that her credit score was in the 400s, partly as the result of a couple of unpaid bills totaling less than $300.
With the discovery of her credit score, he finally learned the extent of his wife's struggles. She lived paycheck to paycheck before they got married and was unemployed for a couple of weeks, leaving her unable to pay some bills.
Acknowledging problems from your past can be uncomfortable. But talking about your struggles may help you and your significant other take steps to fix your financial situation.
2. You'll have a partner in improving your credit score and finances.
A supportive and financially responsible partner may be able to help you take steps to improve your credit and joint finances.
After learning the extent of past financial problems, John and Kristy collaborated on pursuing opportunities for improving her score.
John says, "We started by eliminating bad spending habits." They established a strict budget for spending, and John took over day-to-day money management activities like paying bills.
Kristy worked with a credit repair agency to remove paid-off debts in collections from her credit report. She also paid off her student loans and credit cards with their combined financial power.
In addition, the couple put utility and cellphone bills in her name and asked providers to report the payments to the credit bureaus to help build her credit. Within two years, her credit score had improved to the 700s.
Not everyone is like John and Kristy, so the dynamics of your relationship with your partner may influence how you take action to improve your credit.
3. You may be able to save thousands of dollars on a mortgage.
At some point in your life together, you may decide to take out a mortgage in order to buy a home. Mortgage lenders consider many factors when approving a loan, which may include whether you can afford the monthly loan payment, your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio (this is a percentage calculated by dividing your monthly debt payments by your monthly income before taxes).
According to the Federal Reserve, credit limits for a joint mortgage may be based on the combined income of both applicants, but interest rates are based on the lower credit score of the couple.
So knowing your significant other's credit score and then working together to improve your scores could help you save thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage.
Say you want to take out a 30-year fixed mortgage for $300,000 (based on May 2016 rates). If your credit score is in the 760 to 850 range, you might qualify for an interest rate of about 3.3 percent.
But if your score falls in the 620 to 639 range, you might qualify for a rate of about 4.9 percent and pay nearly $100,000 more in interest over the life of your mortgage than someone with a 760 to 850 score.
The Ramptons took out a mortgage for their first home in John's name only in order to get a lower interest rate.
Then they borrowed for a second house as a couple. When they took out a mortgage together, they were quoted a higher rate than John was quoted for their first mortgage. (John says he got a rate of about 3.75 percent on the first mortgage but the couple's rate was above 4 percent for the second mortgage).
Though the couple could have saved on interest by buying the property in his name only, they plan on using this loan to build Kristy's credit history even more and get better loan pricing in the future.
4. Your credit score affects more than just loans.
Your credit score might affect what you pay for home insurance and car insurance, depending on what state you live in.
Insurers set policy rates based on factors that include insurance risk.
Your risk may be based partly on your credit score or a scoring model that incorporates aspects of your credit information, such as credit utilization (how much credit you're using as a percentage of your total available credit) and credit history.
According to a report by Consumer Reports, drivers who had good scores paid on average $68 to $526 more per year for car insurance than similar drivers with the best credit scores. (The report did not specify which scores fall into each category.)
In addition, employers in some states can check the credit history of job candidates, particularly if you may be handling money as an employee, such as a personal banker or corporate controller.
Having a good credit profile may contribute to you landing a job that could protect or improve your financial future with your significant other.
Even among couples who freely discuss finances and intimate details of their lives, credit score shyness is common.
But knowing and sharing your credit score with your significant other may help you deal with and overcome any mistakes and poor habits from your financial past.
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