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How to Deal When Your Partner Has Bad Credit

What to do when your partner’s the one who’s ruining your joint credit.

ID the issue(s)

First, you need to find the reason for that abysmal credit score. An illness or getting laid off can wreak havoc on a person’s credit. Then again, your mate might suck at managing his money. And if that’s the case, it’s time for some tough love. So sit down together and look at all your credit card statements, bills and credit reports and figure out what’s dragging both your scores down.

Talk it out

The goal isn’t to beat your partner up about his or her spending habits, but do let him know that this is serious—or has the potential to become serious—if things don’t change. Make sure to highlight how now that you’re a team, his or her credit score affects both of you. Whenever you want to get a mortgage or buy a car, both of your credit scores will be considered. So no matter how good yours is, if your partner’s is bad, no lender is going to give you the funds.
You don’t want to raise your voice or launch into the “you ruined my credit” tirade or you could put more than just your finances on the line. But let your mate know how big of a problem this is, and also how it makes you feel. Be honest, but don’t be harsh. Above all, be proactive. Talk about (note: we didn’t say judge) why your mate’s score is where it is, but once you’ve identified the culprit, focus on how you’re going to fix the score and avoid the same issues in the future.

Make a plan

Don’t forget: You’re in this credit mess together, so it’s important to work toward a solution together. Go over both of your expenses, make a schedule for repaying bills and re-arranging funds if need-be. Do whatever it takes to slowly but surely get things back on the right track, which might require sacrifices on both your parts. Signing up for a money management website can help you both budget better (our pick: Mint.com).

Learn How to Survive on One Salary.

-- Paula Kashtan

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