Credit Score Dating A New, Depressing Thing, NYT Claims

Credit score dating is, according to the New York Times, a new social litmus test for already careworn singles looking for love amidst a recession, a fraying overall set of prospects, and a pool of daters with decreasing trust in marriage and family as a goal — and a front page story today describes the “trend” in depressing detail for anyone seeking a partner and having trouble paying back student loans.

Of course, credit score dating is just the most recent “thing” the Times has decided is worthy of a declaration that you should worry about, and the paper is notoriously prone to hyping up these sad “trends” in features such as the one now lighting up the dating blogosphere.

(Jack Shafer said in the past: “I think we write trend stories because we think they’re news … We write bogus trend stories because we’re wrong, we’re lazy, and we’re mentally tardy.”)

Those who are hoping to meet a match and have had a spotty credit-related past should also know the sample size spoken of in the piece was a mere 50 singles — and as we all well know, a lot of people are single precisely because they have an unreasonable set of standards rather than a lack of desire to pair off.

So, credit score dating is apparently sweeping the nation. The Lifestyle piece declares a low credit score as more stigmatizing than a STD in some circles, speaking to singles that have hit it off only to find themselves treated like a jump off when their FICO scores are revealed to be less than ideal. One woman from Chicago, 31-year-old Jessica LaShawn, describes encountering one of these credit score dating folks in the wild after what seemed like decent initial chemistry.

The flight attendant says the fellow asked the credit score question, and the budding relationship quickly unraveled:

“It was as if the music stopped … It was really awkward because he kept telling me that I was the perfect girl for him, but that a low credit score was his deal-breaker.”

credit score dating

After speaking to a bevy of “experts” (all of whom seem to be hawking some sort of financial product or advisory service), the New York Times deems the practice of credit score dating inarguably valid, opining:

“Dating someone with poor credit can have real implications. Banks remain wary of making loans to borrowers with tarnished scores, typically 660 and below; the best scores range from 800 to 850, and scores above 750 are considered good. A low score could quash dreams of buying a house, and result in steep interest rates, up to 29 percent, for credit cards, car financing and other unsecured loans.”

But the credence given credit score dating by the Times is just that — an opinion. Credit scores do matter — when seeking credit. But what the paper doesn’t really say is that even if you decide to marry that person with a terrible credit score, you don’t have to combine credit profiles or even finances, and poor credit scores are not an overall estimator of honorability or earning capacity.

(The paper doesn’t even mention the fact that in a changing financial and social framework, individual ability to support oneself financially is far more important than it was even just a decade ago and that the dream of relying on someone else to carry you monetarily through life is basically all but dead.)

In a time of unprecedented financial upheaval, the credit score dating meme advanced by the paper isn’t only unpleasant and borderline classist; it’s irresponsible and unfair to the many who have suffered a medical bankruptcy or catastrophic job loss in its wake. Any responsible adult should be cautioned to (instead of using a relatively meaningless metric to determine a potential partner’s worth) ensure their own financial future without the aid or potential mingling of a partner considered.

Or, as Slate puts it:

“All an STD test can tell you about a person’s sexual past is whether they have one. Having an STD is not a reliable indicator that one is irresponsible, but simply a measure of whether you trusted someone enough to have sex with them without a condom, something that people in socially approved monogamous relationships do every day. In that sense, the analogy is correct. A low credit score doesn’t tell you much about a person other than they’ve had difficulties in the past. It doesn’t tell you if those difficulties are a result of irresponsibility or misfortune.”

Credit score dating may become an actual trend after this piece in the Times, but do we really want to give shadowy and secretive agencies like FICO more power over how our lives look after experiencing financial distress or a slow start after college?