Foundations for Strong Families 201. Building Credit Together


Because couples share their personal and financial lives, they must take steps toward building credit together. Before doing so, it is necessary to determine how much debt and the sources of debt that a couple has accumulated. Experts urge people to write down everything they owe, listing debts with the highest interest rates first. Then, a couple can look at their list and start saving money by switching to credit or charge cards with lower interest rates.

When a couple gets married, they share debt from credit cards and loans as well as each other’s credit ratings. Marrying someone with good credit allows an individual to gain access to this good credit. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. Marrying someone with bad credit has negative implications, subjecting someone to higher interest rates or being denied credit because of the risk a partner may pose.9

To illustrate how different couples approach building their credit together, Figure 4 presents the stories of two hypothetical couples that face similar challenges as they decide to take the next step in their relationships. Each couple handles their relationships and finances in diverse ways that lead to different outcomes. The first story illustrates how a couple’s relationships with each other and with credit became more attached over time. This couple did not start off with the same approach to finances, but developed strategies to build healthy communication and spending habits. The second story illustrates a couple who remained stuck in a pattern of unhealthy communication and spending that augmented over time. Instead of becoming more attached, their relationship with each other and their credit histories both suffered.

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