Cash & Coupling: Your Credit’s Good, Your Partner’s … Not So Much

Hopefully, you’re proud of your credit score and shred the five credit card offers you get every day, knowing that you worked hard to earn a rating as high as Matthew McConaughey on any given Sunday afternoon. But what if your man’s score isn’t nearly as pretty as he is? Sure, he might be awfully talented with his hands, but when those hands just don’t know how to pay bills on time, it can make you wonder if he’s worth it in the long-term.

Handling this situation can be complicated, but relationship expert Susan J. Elliot and Stacy Johnson, creator and host of “Money Talks,” a nationally syndicated financial news series, offered these tips on how you can delicately deal with a guy who’s in need of some major credit rehab.

Don’t Rush Into Merging Finances

Whether you’re living together or married, you (hopefully) put a lot of thought into taking the relationship to that level. But just because you decided to commit doesn’t mean that you also have to cosign. Johnson cautions that you should put at least as much thought into merging finances as you did into merging lives. “There’s no such thing as ‘cosigning’ anymore,” he says. “If you put your name on that application, it’s your credit and you borrowed that money. You’re going to be responsible for making sure it’s repaid no matter what.” However, know that there’s a difference between opening a joint checking account and opening a line of credit. “If your partner spends too much money from a shared bank account, it won’t affect your credit score,” Johnson explains. “If he overspends on the credit card, however, he’ll drag you down with him.”

Talk It Out

Talk about your budget before you merge finances, while you’re implementing, and before the next decision, advises Johnson. Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but if you can’t ask questions about finances, that’s a pretty surefire sign you aren’t ready to merge. When doing so, Elliott emphasizes the importance of remaining non-judgmental. “People who are ‘bad’ with money know that they’re bad with money,” she says. If your partner’s no Warren Buffet, he doesn’t need you to beat him over the head with that fact. Instead, you might say “I have been saving 10 percent of my check for the past five years,” and see where the conversation leads. If he doesn’t seem open to applying your ideas and skills to his finances, keep doing what you were doing before – saving for yourself and considering whether this kind of partnership would work for you in the long run.

Consider That He May Have Matured

Your partner probably has a good explanation for his score issues. Observe his spending habits to see if he’s now approaching his finances wisely; extravagant purchases may be a sign he isn’t, but showing some fiscal restraint may be a sign of hope. “Buying everyone a round might signify a heart of gold, but if he’s spending beyond his means, it means difficulty is ahead,” says Elliott.

Be Willing To Help Him

You should help your partner establish better habits, but both Johnson and Elliot advise doing so only if he comes to you and asks for your help. “Don’t ever go into a relationship thinking you can change someone,” Johnson says. “If you can’t deal with him the way he is, deal yourself out.” However, if he’s up for seeking your assistance, you can be a valuable resource. “People who don’t check their credit often have things on there that are excusable,” Elliot says. “But people with bad credit want to look the other way. Encourage an audit of his credit report and dispute anything that is old or incorrect.” You can also help him establish a budget or set up automatic payments.

The Money section and all articles within it are sponsored by Free Credit Report; however, the articles are all independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the writers and experts are their own.