More often than not, dating begins with the exchange of a number. But perhaps it's the wrong one.
Instead of trading digits with someone you're interested in, maybe the first information you offer up should be your credit score. (You can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)
It's certainly a unique spin on the dating game, and one being championed by Niem Green, founder of the site Creditscoredating.com and author of a recently released book about dating and money called "Credit Score Dating: The Sexiness of Credit." Yes, good credit is sexy, Green said. And bad credit doesn't have to be a deal breaker, it should just be discussed upfront.
"One of the biggest causes of divorce is finances," Green said. "The problem is that often people don't talk about finances. So when I started this site, I figured at the very least I'm creating the icebreaker to have this conversation."
Green may be on to something. Many surveys show money is one of the primary things couples squabble about. A 2016 study from the American Institute of CPAs found that money issues are a source of weekly and daily stress in relationships. In particular, 88% of adults 25 to 34 who are married or living with a partner said financial decisions are a source of tension in their relationship. Only 42% have discussed their long-term financial goals as a couple.
If the thought of discussing finances with a stranger, let alone on a dating website, makes you uneasy, here's what you need to know.
How it Works
Green's site is based on the honor system. Users are asked to provide their credit score as part of creating a profile, but the site does not check the accuracy of the scores. (You can learn how credit scores are calculated here.)
Green said he's created an algorithm that uses a series of questions to suss out financial habits and whether they're being honest about their score. The questions cover topics such as delinquent accounts in the past and what they would do with a sudden cash windfall. The answers are included on each user's profile, alongside other pertinent dating information like age and hobbies. In addition, the information gleaned by the algorithm, which Green said has a 92% accuracy rate, is used to match compatible site users.
"I've trained my algorithm to think like me, a former underwriter, and based on the answers to your profile questions, the algorithm is able to asses what your credit score likely is," Green said. "But it's not about matching people who have the exact same credit score. It's more about matching people who are financially compatible. It's about how people handle their finances."
As an underwriter, Green often found that couples sitting on the other side of the table had no idea of their partner's credit score and had not had important conversations about each other's financial history. Green's dating site was an attempt to fix this. People need to know their potential partner's weaknesses upfront so they can make informed decisions, Green said.
In addition, the answers to the algorithm's questions indicate how well someone handles commitment and deals with pressure and more, Green said.
The site is free to use and has about 500,000 members, of which 60,000 to 80,000 are active on a monthly basis.
Beyond the Algorithm
No matter how you meet, Green and other financial experts said discussing your partner's approach to money, credit and finances in general is critical. Green suggests financial role playing if you're getting serious.
"If you're thinking of having a baby with this person, then go through the role playing of 'Let's take a look at how much it would cost' and how we would handle the costs," he said. "You could do the same thing to determine how someone would handle an unexpected financial emergency if something really bad happens. You talk about how are we prepared for it and see how that person is really built."
Ronit Rogoszinski, a certified financial planner, devoted a chapter in her book, "Money Talks: 100 Strategies to Master Tricky Conversations about Money," to the topic as well. She said credit scores and attitudes about money will have a variety of impacts throughout the life of a relationship and like Green suggests establishing an open dialogue about finances from day one.
"If someone is coming into a relationship with, let's say a huge student loan, that burden may in fact delay the purchase of that first home the couple may want to own down the road," Rogoszinski said. "Knowing the numbers upfront and putting together a joint effort to address these individual debts is crucial and helps establish realistic expectations."
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