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Consumer
Couples: Credit score conversation is critical
SAN FRANCISCO (6/10/14)--Betrothed couples talk about everything from the style of house they'd like to live in to names of future children, but conversations about finances sometimes get left by the wayside.
 
A new survey from Experian finds that credit scores are the No. 1 financial topic couples don't discuss before tying the knot. Even though roughly 75% of engaged couples talk about spending habits and student loan debt, only 43% talk about credit scores (MarketWatch.com June 2).
 
One of 10 couples don't talk about credit scores even after they've wed. Whether you're embarrassed about being a shopaholic or the topic just hasn't come up yet, it's important to share credit score information before settling down:
  • Check credit reports. Look at your credit reports together. You can check your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once a year for free. Always make your requests from annualcreditreport.com, the only site sanctioned by the Federal Trade Commission. Or, you can call 877-322-8228. Make one request every four months in rotation among the three credit agencies to monitor your credit report year-round. Call credit issuers to dispute unauthorized items on your report.
     
  • Boost your scores. Once you've discussed why credit scores are low, make a plan for boosting them: Create automatic reminders so you remember to pay bills on time, pay down credit card debt, and talk to each other before opening new credit lines. If you decide to open a new card, choose one that has a low rate and low fees; make your credit union the first stop. Credit union credit cards typically have lower rates and fees than other financial institutions. If you're not already a credit union member, visit asmarterchoice.org to locate a credit union in your area.
     
  • Talk frequently about finances. Now that you've come clean about your finances, keep communication lines open in the future. Schedule time each week to sit down and talk about money. If you have kids, plan an inexpensive date night for just you and your spouse to talk about financial topics.
According to the Experian study, married couples say that financial responsibility means more (95%) than physical attractiveness (86%). That alone should be good reason for mutual honesty about credit and other financial matters.
 
For related information, read "Clean Up Your Credit Report" and the Turning Point "Put Your Financial House in Order before You Tie the Knot" in the Home &Family Finance Resource Center.
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