7 years to freedom
April 3, 2009 10:04 AM   Subscribe

My current lover is obsessed with me checking my credit report. I can understand that he wants to know what damages may be lurking in my financial past before moving forward in our relationship.

My current lover is obsessed with me checking my credit report. I can understand that he wants to know what damages may be lurking in my financial past before moving forward in our relationship. My concern is that 7 years ago I may have (read as did) incur some debts that have not been paid. These debts are 6 months shy of meeting the statute of limitations for my state. The 7 year rule goes into effect soon and I will no longer have to hide from my past or collectors. I have been upfront about my financial situation with my lover but he still insists on me doing the credit report since he's the kinda guy that likes it in writing. My "brilliant" plan is to wait another 6 months before pulling the dreaded credit report and requesting that these old debts be removed. My goal is to clean up my credit report as cost effectively as possible. I have unfortunately been unemployed for quite some time and have recently found employment. Sadly, I will have to wait until the end of this month for my first paycheck and will probably need the 6 months to get back on my feet.

Will checking my credit report negatively affect my chances of having this debt written off? Will creditors be able to locate me and ruin my chances of financially starting over? Will they be able to put a freeze on my checking account? Should I just wait the 6 months before doing the credit report since I've already waited 6.5 years? And short of getting a big role of duct tape, how do I shut my lover up for the next 6 months
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Why not be honest and just tell him?
posted by Abbril at 10:10 AM on April 3, 2009

The report exists whether or not you look at it - looking at it won't affect it, or your credit situation. There's really no reason to wait unless you're trying to conceal the old stuff from your lover.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:13 AM on April 3, 2009

Why is your financial situation your "current lover"'s business? But, to answer your question, if you have been upfront with him about your financial situation, then just tell him why you want to wait the six months. If you can't do that, then you haven't really been upfront with him.
posted by amro at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2009

Why on earth is it your current lover's business right now? This would really bother me. If his feelings for you rest on your credit rating DTMFA.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

My current lover is obsessed with me checking my credit report.

How romantic. Tell him to fuck off and mind his own business.
posted by rokusan at 10:17 AM on April 3, 2009 [22 favorites]

Okay... that was reactive. But, seriously, I have a bad feeling about this. Yes, it would be good for you, over the long term, to demonstrate fiscal responsibility so that your partner feels he can rely on you- but this whole idea of "not moving forward" until he knows your credit status is - his "obsession" with it- is not healthy. Not at all.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 10:19 AM on April 3, 2009

Assuming you are in the US, annualcreditreport.com is the official site which allows you to access a free credit report from each of the 3 major agencies once every 12 months. Checking your credit via this site will not affect your credit in any way.

Whether you show the report to your SO or not, I would recommend getting the reports NOW so you can be sure that these debts will indeed expire in six months. Other things may be on there that you're not aware of, as well. I had a $100 bill from the PUBLIC LIBRARY on mine.
posted by hamsterdam at 10:20 AM on April 3, 2009

A.) Go here and get your free credit report (from all three agencies.)

B.) You'll see that they often list the dates on which certain debts are set to fall off your report.

C.) Show that to your... "lover"

Because, you've already told him or her about your problem past, showing them the extent of that damage will take some fortitude, but you can take solace in the fact that on the same credit report it will generally show when these black marks will cease to be a big deal.

At the very least it's going to empower you to fix your credit and show your mate that you're serious about it.
posted by wfrgms at 10:21 AM on April 3, 2009

Six months does not seem to be a long time to wait for this information, you don't say how long you have been together but if it is less than a year and you are not planning to financially intertwine your lives in the next six months (by marriage or moving in) then ask him politely to wait. You will feel better once you know the actual figures though. Most statutes of limitations are based on the last activity on the account - not when the debt was incurred. It was a little unclear if you understood that distinction.
posted by saucysault at 10:23 AM on April 3, 2009

this whole idea of "not moving forward" until he knows your credit status

I wouldn't move forward with anyone unless I knew our shared future was going to be secure. That doesn't just include credit, but also career paths, shared desires, etc.

The OP has already admitted to having bad credit in the past. It's only natural that the SO would want to know how bad or how hard it is going to be to fix.

Bad credit shouldn't be an automatic deal breaker (unless it's an extreme example) but by taking ownership of his/her past the OP will be demonstrating to their SO that they take it seriously.

I think that's a good thing.
posted by wfrgms at 10:25 AM on April 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

This throws up some red flags from my perspective. Being pushy about money issues like this is very much Controlling Behavior.

For the sake of peace of mind, take a quick look at this, and make sure that your lover doesn't match too many of these: http://www.newbeginningsnh.org/html/signs.html

I hope that your lover really isn't a bad person. But, right now, the only thing you've mentioned about him/her is the issue raised in the question. So, I have to ask.
posted by Citrus at 10:31 AM on April 3, 2009

Sorry, anon, this just seems stupid to me. Having a bad debt in your past does not make you a moral failure. Everyone, typically, at some time or another incurs a bad debt -- either through outright negligence or happenstance. Part of being in a long-term, interdependent relationship is responsibly handling your money. You are not doing that responsibly which is of more importance that what your "lover" is asking you. Perhaps your SO thinks that you are hiding from your past, you are, or that you might have a habit of ignoring things in the hopes that they go away, seems like a valid assumption.

I am not a credit professional but I don't think your checking your credit reports has anything to do with the debt. It is also my understanding that not all debts just melt away after seven years for various reasons. In order to be responsible for your debt you should pull your reports and see what's what. Do some research into cleaning up your credit report and start tackling the issue.

Whether or not this is any of your lovers business is secondary. What is your SOs business is whether your inability to responsibly look after your credit is a sign of your irresponsibility elsewhere. By not doing this, you're sending a signal.

Then again, if you don't need clean credit today or this year, then tell your buddy that you are waiting for some debt to get written off this year and you will check your credit after that timeframe and be responsible for anything else that is in it. Stick to your end of the bargain and tell him/her to quit bugging you about it.
posted by amanda at 10:34 AM on April 3, 2009

I think we're really really not getting the whole picture here.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:37 AM on April 3, 2009

I guess I'm operating under the assumption that when "moving forward" with folks you are already in agreement that, together, you will work through whatever baggage there is. And that, while it's okay to be curious about your partner's financial situation, to "obsess" is highly unappealing. I could be an outsider on this, though... maybe one day we'll see dating sites where you have to post your credit rating.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 10:38 AM on April 3, 2009

Are you sure that the seven-year thing is actually going to happen? I'm not an expert, but it's my understanding that, as debts get sold to other companies and whatnot, their lifespans can be extended.

And, to build on what a bunch of people have said: annualcreditreport.com is the legitimate site. freecreditreport.com, the one with catchy commercials and whatnot, is a for-profit, intentionally-misleading site set up by Experian, one of the big-three credit-reporting agencies. Crooks.
posted by box at 10:38 AM on April 3, 2009

Maybe the OP's lover is less concerned about the actual debts and more concerned about the "ignore it and it will go away" attitude OP seems to have. That's a pretty big red flag to me.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 10:43 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

As to your question:

I have pulled my report, or had it pulled for me, numerous times over the years. Just last year an old debt surfaced that was not in any report I had pulled, but my creditor (and their lawyer - eek) insisted it had been reported. The only way this creditor found me after so many years was because I initiated contact myself, in a matter completely unrelated, so they found me. They never found me throughout the years when I checked my report. So that is anecdotal, but more concretely, as far as I know creditors don't know when you pull your own credit report. They are not alerted to that, and when you pull your own report it doesn't get counted. So I would highly doubt that the act of pulling your own report would tip anyone off, or be to your detriment in the ways you fear. I second wfrgms's advice to pull your reports and see when these detrimental line items will fall off your report.

As to what was not in your question, but has been alluded to in the comments:

I can see why this comes across as controlling behavior on the surface. I had the same gut reaction on reading your question. But. I started to think about what I would do if I were considering mingling my finances with someone else in any way, and knowing that there are issues with their credit. Perhaps he is perceiving you as not being as proactive about things as he would like? Perhaps he is trying to nudge you towards more awareness of your financial situation? Maybe he just wants to know where you are now, so you can work towards a goal? I mean, I could be giving him too much benefit of the doubt, but I don't think that this is all about him necessarily being controlling, since all we have is what you have written, and *how* you have written it.

Only you know just where he is on this spectrum between "trying to help you" and "trying to control you". But, you know, my unsolicited advice is to pay attention to what he is asking of you, and why.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:46 AM on April 3, 2009

That stuff isn't going to magically evaporate in six months. In fact, SoL on a lot of things are NOT 7 years, they are 5 or 4 or 9 or something else, depending on what state you are in, and the limits only apply to score calculations, not listed items on your credit report. Waiting it out could take a while.

There's nothing wrong with openly discussing your financial histories. So do so, don't try to lie or obscure reality, and if he can't cope then it's best that you know that now before you do go any further in your relationship.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:47 AM on April 3, 2009

No one is going to find you if you check your credit and it has no bearing on your score or debts now or in six months. Also with the "7 year" thing...You won't have to do anything at the end of 7 years. Those old debts just magically stop affecting your score after 7 years.

As far as relationship stuff goes, I can't say I'm totally in agreement with the righteously angry crowd here. I mean if this relationship has no future, then yeah, screw him, but if he wants to make sure you're financially sound in the long term, especially with regards to legal marriage where your financial lives will be intermingled, I can't say I disagree with him. Too many people ignore this and are sorry later to find out "surprises" about their loved one.
posted by poppo at 10:48 AM on April 3, 2009

It is also my understanding that not all debts just melt away after seven years for various reasons.

Unless you filed for bankruptcy 6 years ago, I don't see how they debts will disappear, either.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:54 AM on April 3, 2009

Definitely check the credit report now, for yourself. No one will be notified of your doing so.

The "7 year rule" sounds fishily biblical to me. I'm probably reading too much into your letter, and I'm sorry if this is nosy, but it may be that your lover is reacting to a tendency to ignore unpleasant things and tell yourself that they'll go away, rather than facing them and finding out facts about them and dealing with them.
posted by palliser at 11:08 AM on April 3, 2009

"lover" implies a no-minimal strings attached relationship, why shoud he be interested in your credit. surley credit reports and the rest can wait until you 2 have crossed over into sig-o territory.
posted by askmehow at 11:17 AM on April 3, 2009

My understanding (which admittedly could be wrong) is that unpaid debts don't magically disappear from your life after 7 years.

Instead, my understanding is that they disappear from your credit report 7 (or another number, depending on your state's laws) years after being discharged, written-off, or otherwise resolved, whether through repayment, bankruptcy, negotiated settlement, or other means.

Again, I could be misunderstanding this, but it probably bears investigation. You should contact a non-profit credit counseling agency for advice.
posted by dersins at 11:21 AM on April 3, 2009

Going off what box said: He must have seen this commercial.
posted by vestan at 11:21 AM on April 3, 2009

You should contact a non-profit credit counseling agency for advice.

(But be careful about who you choose.)
posted by dersins at 11:23 AM on April 3, 2009

Checking your credit report is part of having that debt written off, usually. Until you request the credit agency remove it, they're not going to touch it. You can't really request they remove it without getting a credit report first. Things don't usually automatically drop off at seven years, but they do drop off if you request them after the seven years are up.

How much do you owe? Seriously, if it's not ridiculous, your creditors aren't coming after you at this point if they haven't done so already. Odds are that they could care less. The money isn't coming back to them.

I'm no expert, but I play one on the web. fixyourowncredit.org is a website I wrote for advice on clearing your own credit.
posted by talldean at 11:26 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Anon: How long have you two been together? What does "moving forward" mean? Getting married? Or just becoming exclusive? (You can email a moderator to clarify.)
posted by scody at 11:39 AM on April 3, 2009

I would say the issue of your lover wanting to see your credit report is secondary to you yourself getting a handle on your own financial health. And maybe he is a control freak, or maybe he is reacting with nervousness to your avoidance "method" of dealing. I'm not judging you, as I have fought the same tendencies in myself very often. Like I said, though, your boyfriend is secondary in my opinion.

You should definitely go here and order your free credit reports from all three agencies as soon as possible. Look over your credit reports and make sure everything is as expected. Anything that seems fishy, dispute with each agency (I think all three have an online dispute function). You will have to check each report because the agencies don't always contain the same information. Also, though I think you have to pay for this part, get your FICO score to see where you are. Going forward, make sure to check your reports often (you can stagger the three agencies throughout the year so you can check more often than once per year and still get free reports). Always pay your minimums, and much more if possible. Late payments stay on for two years, I believe, and can have a significant effect on your score. Just remember that anything to do with your report, waiting for corrections or things to drop off, is excruciatingly slow and sometimes you have to be really persistent.

As for your bad debts, they will not drop off your report after seven years, but (most) will stop affecting your score seven years from the last activity on the account, usually your last missed payment. If you decide to start paying again, that activates your seven years again.

Credit reports and improving your credit score can be quite confusing, and there is a lot of conflicting information out there, so try to educate yourself as much as possible on the topic. I don't have specific book or blog recommendations, but maybe others do.

The lover: you could tell him you appreciate his concern, and are working on accessing your credit report and improving your score. At some point, yes, you should show him, but you will have to decide when you are comfortable with this level of intimacy. Hopefully, you will give him reason to trust that you are handling it and he will have the patience and think it's worth it to wait.
posted by JenMarie at 12:03 PM on April 3, 2009

I don't think it's insane for your SO to want to know your financial status before moving in with you/getting engaged or married/ getting joint accounts or whatever, but if that's not the case it's none of his business.
He's right that just ignoring this for another six months won't make it better. If you did happen to contact the creditor, as opposed to a credit reporting agency, that could restart the statute of limitations, but doing a free credit report as you're entitled to by law annually can't restart it. Just find out now so you have as much information as possible and plan accordingly.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:12 PM on April 3, 2009

The phrase "my current lover" speaks volumes about your thoughts regarding this relationship. Since it seems clear he will eventually be your previous lover, why bother?
posted by 2oh1 at 2:39 PM on April 3, 2009

Instead, my understanding is that they disappear from your credit report 7 (or another number, depending on your state's laws) years after being discharged, written-off, or otherwise resolved, whether through repayment, bankruptcy, negotiated settlement, or other means.

Right! discharged was the word I was thinking of before. If the OP is counting on sheer age of the debt to somehow make a difference, however… well, I have some sad news for you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:15 PM on April 3, 2009

Right! discharged was the word I was thinking of before. If the OP is counting on sheer age of the debt to somehow make a difference, however… well, I have some sad news for you.

On a credit report, these are written as, "Charged off as bad debt." This means the creditor has written it off as a loss for tax purposes, and the debt is usually passed on to a collection agency who will still attempt to collect. From what I have read, creditors generally do this when six months have gone by without a payment, and I can't see a reason they would keep this debt on their books if they've given up hope of collecting. Now that I think about it, I am actually not sure if the seven year limit starts from the date of the last payment, or the date of the charge off. But yes, the age of the debt does make it a reasonable assumption the debt has been charged off, though looking at the credit report itself will tell the OP for sure and will give her a clearer idea when it will stop affecting her credit.
posted by JenMarie at 5:46 PM on April 3, 2009

Just to clarify some confusion I see in the comments here, I am a lawyer who does a lot of work involving the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the main federal law on credit reporting.

It is true that generally 7 years after an account first goes delinquent, a credit reporting agency must stop reporting the debt, even if that debt ha been transferred or sold from the original creditor in the meantime - say, to a collections agency.

But it is a separate question as to whether a creditor can still collect from you on the debt, which is governed by state statute of limitations.

So, the reporting of the debt is governed by federal law and is uniformly 7 years. But whether someone can still come after you and make you pay may be different, depending on the state.

Now, you say that your state statute of limitations is 7 years, so in that case there's no difference. But make sure you are not confusing that with the 7-year period from federal law, because you might be thinking you're free and clear when in fact you may still owe somebody something.

But the other commenters have it right that you can and should get a credit report, without your creditors knowing.
posted by chinston at 7:10 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Your bigger problem, and I hope this doesn't verge into moralizing without answering the question, is that you're not facing up to responsibility. You are hiding from your lover, hiding from the information in your credit reports, and hiding from your creditors.

Waiting for old debt to disappear due to a statute of limitations is pretty shitty. You incurred the debt; pay what you owe. Negotiate a discount if you can, but work it out honorably with the creditors.

Then you won't need to shut up your lover for the next six months. You'll be on the up-and-up with all parties involved. And you can watch your credit rating improve on the basis that you've improved in responsibility as a borrower--rather than that you've just managed to game the system.
posted by torticat at 1:00 PM on April 4, 2009

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