Lasting love? It depends on your credit score

The odds of whether a relationship will work out may have less to do with love and more to do with money.

As romantic as it sounds, it may just boil down to compatible credit scores.

The higher your credit score when a committed relationship starts, the less likely you are to break up after the first few years, according to new research by the Federal Reserve Board. Well-matched credit scores also bode well for a long-lasting love.

Credit scores reveal an individual's relationship skill and level of commitment, the report concluded.

Those with the highest credit scores were most likely to form long-lasting committed relationships. And the greater the mismatch between a couple's credit scores, the more likely they are to separate within the first five years, the study showed.

"This result arises, in part, because initial credit scores and match quality predict subsequent credit usage and financial distress, which in turn are correlated with relationship dissolution," the Federal Reserve Board's report said.

Couples with poorly matched scores may face challenges in jointly managing household finances, such as managing debt, paying bills or saving for a rainy day fund, particularly in their first few years together, according to the report.

With money at the root of a lot of relationship stress and arguments, it's no surprise that a partner with credit issues can cause a significant strain and even a split.

"It's not all about the money; it's about the signals the money is sending," said Sean McQuay, a credit card analyst at NerdWallet. "Financial health is often a signal to broader well-being."

money issues worries couple
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To that point, of those polled in a recent survey by NerdWallet, 49 percent said they wouldn't date someone with bad credit.

Additionally, 40 percent said a potential partner's financial situation was more important than their physical attractiveness, and 46 percent of all respondents said that if their partner's card was declined on a first date, a second date would be off the table.

Still, only about half, or 54 percent, of Americans said it's important to know your significant other's credit score before comingling finances, according to a separate study by Wells Fargo, titled How America Buys and Borrows.

That's a mistake, according to Mikel Van Cleve, a certified financial planner and director of personal finance advice at USAA. Before a relationship gets too serious, "have an open, honest conversation about where you are financially and what your financial goals are," he advised — and that includes reviewing each person's credit history and score.

If one person struggles with debt and a poor credit score, "let your partner know the situation you are in, why, and the things you are doing to tackle that debt," Van Cleve said.

On the flip side, if the person with bad credit is not taking any steps to improve their financial situation, "that's a red flag," he added.

"A common misconception is that you inherit your spouse's credit," Van Cleve said.

That's just not the case — you always will have two separate credit histories. However, one partner's bad credit could impact other aspects of your life as a couple when you apply for credit jointly, including what mortgage rate you qualify for together and whether you qualify at all.

But that doesn't mean everyone with bad credit is doomed romantically.

NerdWallet's McQuay advises taking steps to boost a bad score by starting with a secured credit card and a budget that fits within your income limitations and then setting goals for reducing debt and paying bills on time.

"If you have bad credit, there are a lot of reasons to improve it, but it can also matter in relationships," he said.

Van Cleve recommends couples sit down together at least monthly to review spending and saving amounts, particularly if the couple is starting out on two different pages.

"Set limits on purchases over a certain amount, like $100," he suggested." You can't have a healthy relationship if you're not communicating about finances together," he said.