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4 Money Differences Between Married and Divorced People

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People make dating decisions based on dozens of factors: shared interests, friendliness, clever online dating profiles, attractiveness and so on. What people don’t do: “Our personal finance habits complement each other, and we have similar debt levels — let’s date!”

That would be a little ridiculous.

But personal finance should factor into long-term relationships, because money — as touchy a subject it is — has a huge bearing on day-to-day happiness and success, so there’s no wonder why personal lives get rocky when finances do.

A recent Credit.com survey Marriage, Divorce & Credit asked 1,061 consumers about their relationships and finances. While the poll isn’t demographically representative of the U.S., the survey respondents have different financial, employment, racial and educational backgrounds, and their answers highlighted some interesting concepts about marriage and money. About half of respondents were married, the rest were divorced, and a few differences between the groups stood out.

1. Teamwork

Money wasn’t the sole reason these people got divorced (only 5% of divorced respondents said it was), but for 51% of divorced respondents, financial differences contributed to — or was one of the primary factors in — the split. Forty-four percent said it wasn’t part of the breakup, but for those whose finances played a part in their relationships’ demise, credit- and debt-management was often not a group effort. To better compare the money habits among the married and divorced respondents, we looked at only the responses of the divorced people who identified money as a contributing factor to their marriage ending.

The majority of married respondents said finances are a two-person job in their relationship: 54% said they make credit and debt decisions together, while 28% of divorced respondents said they made joint decisions when they were married. In that group, 42% said they were the primary decision maker, 23% said they weighed in a little but let their spouse deal with the money and 7% stayed out of financial decisions.

2. Credit Compatibility

While by nature, one person in a marriage is likely to have a higher score than the other (and vice versa), our survey did find that a stark difference in how divorced and married respondents’ scores compared to their spouses’ score.

Among married respondents, 51% said their credit scores were similar to their spouse’s, while only 23% of divorced respondents said the same.

Now, that’s not to say married people have better credit scores. Couples can be sitting on two scores in the low 600s, making them “credit compatible,” but those are poor scores. But since credit scores are a reflection of financial behavior, it makes sense that credit score compatibility could contribute to a more successful marriage.

Before you dump a long-term girlfriend over her poor credit scores, remember that there’s always a chance to improve. You can both track your credit scores every month for free using Credit.com’s Credit Report Card, and you can work together to improve credit utilization, payment history — whatever the issue may be, it’s solvable with time, patience and a willingness to break bad habits.

3. Debt

When it comes to overall debt, married people were more likely to say they had none than people who have been divorced. Among married respondents, about 10% of people said they and their spouse have no individually or jointly held debt. For the divorced group, 6% said they had no debt while married, 3% said their spouse had no debt and 4% said they had no debt together.

There was also an interesting difference when it came to how much debt each person brought into the marriage. Respondents were asked to say whether or not they or their spouses brought any of the following debts into the marriage: Credit card, auto loan, student loan, mortgage, medical debt, personal loan or none. Most respondents, divorced and married, reported bringing similar kinds of debt to the relationship, with two exceptions: medical debt and personal loans.

4. Communication

This one is pretty simple: Talk about finances before you get married. In our survey, 22% of divorced respondents said they didn’t know their spouse’s credit scores, and 15% of married respondents said the same.

You will have to talk about money with your partner eventually, and it’s better to confront any issues you or your significant other has before they get out of hand and tank your relationship.

It goes back to your ability to be credit compatible — if you identify discrepancies early on, you can work together to get on the same page. Left unacknowledged, one person’s credit and debt problems could fester until they can’t be ignored, and a large, unexpected debt burden could eat away at the relationship.

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