Eighteen months since marriage equality passed, many of us are still learning what marriage means legally and financially. From our own research and that of our business partners, such as Prudential and MassMutual with their respective studies about queer people and money, the top three financial concerns of our community are paying off debt, saving for retirement and improving our credit scores. Likewise, we’re concerned with how marrying our partner will affect our credit scores.
On this ™, we talk with Collin Brennan, Senior Editor at Credit Karma, who breaks down how we can better marry our money by better managing our credit reports and credit scores. We list these steps and more on this easy to follow checklist.
Marrying someone with a bad credit score or with negative marks on their credit report won’t adversely affect you, your credit score or your credit report. However, if you apply for a loan together, as with a mortgage to buy your dream home, their financial problems may become your financial problems. If you open bank or investment accounts, creditors and collectors who may be seeking repayment from your partner may be able to access your joint accounts to obtain reimbursement. That could mean accessing your money.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to decide which loans and accounts to open together and which to open separately. It’s, also, a good idea to clean both your credit reports and get both your credit scores closer to the high of 830 and further from the low of 330. To do so, following these steps, including those shared by Brennan may help.
Your credit score tells lenders how likely you are to repay a loan in full and on time. Therefore, it’s logical that payment history makes up 35% of a credit score. Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), the company that calculates credit scores for the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, essentially uses past performance to indicate future results.
Good payment habits show lenders that you’re a worthy credit risk, so immediately start paying all your bills on time and in full, and make good on past due payments.
Your credit utilization is the amount of revolving debt you have divided by the amount of revolving credit available to you. Credit utilization and credit scores have an inverse relationship, so the lower your credit utilization, the better your credit score. Get your credit utilization below 50%, and you’ll start to see your credit score improve. Some experts even suggest getting your credit utilization below 30%.
Brennan says that Credit Karma found that almost half of Americans never reviewed their credit report. Unfortunately, incorrect marks on credit reports that lower credit scores are all too common.
Contact Credit Karma to get free credit reports from TransUnion and Equifax or contact FreeCreditReport.com to get free copies from all three credit rating bureaus, including Experian. Review each credit report for accuracy and contest errors, including misspelled names, incorrect addresses and false claims. For help disputing errors, use Credit Karma’s Direct Dispute tool.
With banking and money management becoming more technological and the risk of data breaches and identity theft more common, reviewing your credit reports at least annually will help reduce your financial risk.
Brennan says it’s important to know that all lenders don’t report to all bureaus and lenders don’t submit reports to bureaus at the same time. Therefore, each of your credit reports won’t look the same, but they should look similar and should all be accurate.