If you or your significant other carries a lot of debt, once you join in marriage, that debt becomes shared. Your debt becomes her debt. His debt becomes your debt. In addition, if you apply for a joint loan or credit card, if one spouse has bad credit, there is a chance you will get denied. Depending on the severity of the credit score, this could mean a difficult time getting a car loan or a home loan.
It has been said that money is what couples fight about most often and it is a contributing factor in divorce. Debt that is brought into a marriage can cause problems even before the ink dries on the marriage certificate. Marrying into debt is a big responsibility and can cause stress on a marriage. Instead of going out to dinner and a movie or taking vacations together, debt ridden couples will spend a lot of time worrying and even arguing about money.
Before getting married, you and your significant other should sit down and answer some really important questions about money.
Make sure you both know how many credit cards each other have, and what the balances are on those cards. What are the interest rates? How long do you expect it to take to pay it off?
Ask each other about managing money: Do you pay your bills on time? Or do you have companies and collections calling you to collect payments? Do you pay just the minimum amount due, or do you put down more than that?
Discuss spending habits as well. You should know ahead of time if your significant other has a $100 a week gambling habit or needs a new designer bag each month. If any of this is a problem or will interfere with future goals, it needs to be discussed ahead of time.
Look at each other’s credit scores and see if there is anything that could possibly affect your financial future together. Talk about any assets you may have: bonds, investments, retirement funds, or real estate. If either of you have a previous marriage, discuss any financial obligation to the ex-spouse, or any child support payments if there was children involved.
And finally, discuss your future finances. What are your financial goals? Do you want to get out of debt before anything else? Will you be combining assets and opening joint bank accounts, or will you keep everything separate? Will you be creating, and sticking to, a budget? If you want children together, how do you plan on supporting them? And how do you plan on paying for daycare and schooling later on. What about saving for their college tuition?
There are, of course, no right or wrong answers to the questions regarding your financial situation. If your future spouse does not want to even discuss money with you, consider it a huge red flag that there is something wrong. However, making sure you are on the same page regarding money will benefit you. It will be very frustrating if one spouse spends money all the time while the other wants to save money. There needs to be a happy medium.
After having the money discussion and knowing where each other stands financially, if the both of you decide that you want to get married, then go for it. One important thing to think about is the cost of the wedding. A big wedding can cost thousands of dollars. You could possibly have family help you pay for it, or you could also have family help you pay off some debt as a wedding gift.
If you do plan on getting married into debt, here is some advice. Try to pay off as much of the debt as you can before you get married. This will make your new life more enjoyable, without the burden of debt. You can also consider postponing the wedding for just a year or two, so that you or your partner can work on finances. You can also consider a prenuptial agreement. This may sound pessimistic, like you are expecting the marriage to fail, but prenuptial agreements can protect spouses during marriage, not just afterwards. For example, a prenuptial can make sure debt collectors don’t go after your spouse for debt you owe, even while you are married.
The biggest thing you can do to make a marriage with debt work is to keep talking about money. Never lie or hide information from your spouse. If you make a large purchase, either let your spouse know, or better yet, discuss it ahead of time. Discuss opening any new credit cards, as it could affect their credit as well. Frequently talk about where you are in paying off the debt, as you should be working together toward that goal.
Going into a marriage where one or both partners has a large amount of debt can be stressful, and can cause some problems in the marriage. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Making sure you discuss the debt, and all financial aspects ahead of time can alleviate a lot of the problems that come with financial problems.