If you are married (or plan to be) I will share with you five vital keys every married person should know before signing any credit application.
VITAL KEY #1: According to the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act (FECOA) creditors cannot deny consumers access to credit because of their sex. However, on average (in surveys) it’s reported that women earn less money than men. Regardless of what the FECOA states, the relationship of credit to income is very strong.
In our society if you make less money you will get less credit, period. The sad fact is that women on there own have less access to credit. It’s for this reason (I believe) it is imperative that women learn and acquire more knowledge about credit than men. Knowledge is power; and in the world of credit that knowledge will often times prove to be priceless, especially for women.
VITAL KEY #2: If you are a married woman with JOINT credit (meaning all your credit accounts are jointly held with your husband) you have NO CREDIT yourself. Many women in America find this out the hard way every year when they get divorced and lose all their credit privileges since all their accounts were jointly held with their spouse. If you are a woman in this position you can greatly benefit by beginning to build your own credit in your own name starting today! The benefits are two fold.
1.) If your spouse has financial difficulties (for any reason) and is forced to file bankruptcy or their credit becomes derogatory, you and your spouse will have your credit in reserve to survive on.
2.) If you ever get divorced down the road (over 50% do and 76% in the state of California) you will NOT end up in financial hardship due to no credit and/or derogatory credit. Instead, you will have your credit to transition to and (believe me) this can be the difference between sailing off in the sunset or drowning in a storm.
VITAL KEY #3: If you are currently married (with some credit or no credit) to a spouse who has excellent credit, you can leverage their credit to build credit in your own name much faster than if you had to build it by yourself. Later, once you have established enough accounts on your own, you may choose to cancel accounts that were held jointly with your spouse.
VITAL KEY #4: If you are a single woman with excellent credit and are getting married you may want to think twice about adding your new lover to all your credit accounts. If he messes up or you end up in divorce down the road your credit will end up taking the beating (regardless of how many years you diligently spent building it up). For this reason, I strongly suggest married couples keep their credit separate. Why?
In most cases spouses have far more to lose than to gain. Naturally, some credit will have to be joint no matter what you do. If you purchase a home (which may require both incomes to qualify) this will appear as a joint account on the credit report. However, the potential abuse with a home mortgage is almost non existent as opposed to Credit Cards.
VITAL KEY #5: Spouses have more to gain by each building strong individual credit reports rather than joining all accounts and building one joint report. For obvious reasons, banks and credit card companies love the “credit ignorance” of spouses who join all their credit accounts upon marriage.
Here’s why: If you take 500,000 couples with credit before they got married, those 500,000 couples actually represent one million credit accounts and liabilities for the banks and lenders. When those couples got married, those one million credit liabilities were instantly were cut in half from one million to only 500,000. For banks this is a very advantageous situation. For the couples getting married (if they have financial trouble) the deal is a little raw. If they have trouble, although they are two people, they are represented by only one credit report. The bank now has the right to go after two different people for one account (regardless of who was financially negligent).
For moment, let’s play out the same scenario with a couple which is financially savvy (note: they’re both on the same “team” but financially savvy). In this scenario, the couple gets married, but instead of joining account each builds their individual credit reports. Now this couple (team) has not one credit report representing them but two. Metaphorically, if the perfect storm (financially) is to rise, this is the difference between the couple being in the ocean with two ships instead of one. If the one ship starts to sink, the couple can always “jump ship” to the second.
While some may criticize this thinking it is no different than buying any kind of insurance. You buy insurance not because you plan on a problem. You buy insurance because you are thinking ahead. This type of thinking is no different. However, if you want to be ahead of the pack that you need to think ahead of the pack.
I cannot tell you how many times I have talked to loving married couples in financial trouble who only WISHED they would have known about these five vital keys before they got into financial trouble. Take them, study them, apply them to your life. As I heard one woman put it “In business and in life I’ve learned to expect the best but plan for the worst”. I thought her words were brilliant. However, I have found that when I expect the best… many times I tend to get it! Take these five vital keys. Study them. Apply them. Then pass them on to someone else who can benefit from them.