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Bad attitude, good credit score

Jeremy Simon

Are you a mean, no-good jerk? Then you are more likely to have a good credit score.

According to a study released Wednesday, people with bad attitudes tend to have higher credit scores, the numbers used by lenders to determine whether to loan money and how much interest to charge. Researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU), Texas Tech University and Northern Illinois University found a link between credit scores and consumers’ personalities. They considered FICO scores, the most commonly used scores in the United States, along with participants’ responses to surveys regarding their personalities.

And their findings may give jerks reason to celebrate: Those researchers found that there was a negative relationship between agreeableness and credit scores. “In simple terms, this means the more agreeable you are, the lower your credit score is,” says LSU professor Jeremy Bernerth, one of the study’s authors.

“Alternatively, the more disagreeable you are, the higher your credit score is,” Bernerth says.

Bernerth says there are several possible explanations as to why jerks score so highly. “Someone who is disagreeable might refuse to co-sign a loan for someone else or they might refuse to open up a store credit card at the request of a store clerk,” he says. Both of those actions are typically discouraged for people looking to improve their credit. “This is just pure speculation, but we do know that agreeableness is also negatively related to career advancement and career earnings. It doesn’t seem like too far of a stretch to link those findings with one’s credit score,” Bernerth says.

In other words, the bad attitude that helped you elbow your way up the career ladder may have also helped you achieve a high credit score.

That connection between career performance and credit is sometimes considered by employers during the hiring process. Certain employers and industries are known to check job applicants’ credit histories before making their final selection. (A coalition of consumer advocacy and civil rights groups, meanwhile, recently demanded that credit bureau TransUnion stop selling its credit reports to employers.) However, credit scores aren’t considered.

The researchers found that credit may have something to say about job performance — in some cases. “There was a link between conscientiousness (a measure of reliability) and one’s credit score. Those individuals who are conscientious tend to have higher credit scores,” Bernerth says in an email.

But that doesn’t mean the reverse is true for people with bad credit.

“There was not a link between credit scores and theft (or any other type of counterproductive behavior),” Bernerth says.

A few weeks ago, I sampled a new Experian service that gives advice to people on how to improve their credit score. When they counseled me, never once did they mention that I should change my easygoing ways and get surly. Those idiots. And what are YOU looking at?

See related: TransUnion asked to stop selling credit reports to employers, Experian gets personal to teach about credit, but it’ll cost you

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