While getting married can be pretty exciting because it represents your union with your soul mate and is a fulfillment of a lot of expectations, it can also be quite scary because you may be putting your financial security to risk by bringing onboard another person who may have unknown financial baggage.
While it is true that money matters can bring in a lot of stress into the marriage, the situation is compounded by quite a few misconceptions about marriage and debt, therefore, it can be a smart thing to have a clear understanding of the various issues before you actually get hitched for life. Some common myths clarified:
Your Spouse’s Debt Becomes Your Own Debt after Your Marriage
While you may actually believe is that marriage is for better or worse and that any of your partner’s debt is now a joint responsibility, in the eyes of the law, it is not quite so. As far as your spouse’s pre-existing debt is concerned, legally you have no responsibility unless you have co-signed any of the loan or credit card agreements. Given the legal reality, it is still a good idea for both the partners to assess the amount of debt they have and work on it jointly to reduce it and take the worry off the joint shoulders. If your partner has a lot of credit card debt, you should candidly discuss regarding the path forward because it is a clear indication that the credit cards have been used to finance a lifestyle that is very clearly unaffordable.
You Should Assist Your Partner to Pay off the Debt
If you are just engaged, using your own money to settle your partner’s debt can be a risky step, as you would tend to lose everything in case the marriage is called off for any reason. Getting embroiled into someone else’s debt hassles when you are not legally obliged to is not prudent, however, you can choose to exercise your personal choice after considering all the pros and cons. It can be a better idea to suggest that your partner settle the debt without your help before getting married so that both of you can lead adebt free life.
After Marriage Your Credit Scores Become One
Though very common, the suggestion that the credit scores of two individuals get combined after they marry is ludicrous. A credit score is tied to a single individual who is identified by his social security number. Therefore, even after marriage, both of you remain individuals in your own right with credit scores that are separate and distinct from each other. However, any one of the two partners involved in the marriage can impact the credit score of the other. For example, if you have a joint account and your partner keeps on defaulting on the credit card payments, it will also drag your score down too. However, if you keep the savings account in good standing, the credit score of your spouse is liable to improve with time.
Credit History Is Set To Zero after the Change in the Last Name
Even though you will be rejoicing at the prospect of starting a completely new phase of your life after you marry your beloved, credit histories are unfortunately not subject to sentiment and remain unaffected by any change in your name. It should be appreciated that your credit history is linked to your social security number and not your name, as a result of which even after you marry and change your name, your credit history remains unaffected by the event itself. Consider a situation where you have driven your credit score to the ground by taking on debt unwisely and the system allows you to come up with a fresh and unblemished credit report just by marrying and changing your name! You can be sure that there will be a huge upsurge in marriages just to wipe the slate clean.
All Applications for Loans Now Need To Be Made Jointly
While it can be great fun doing things together after getting married, there are certain things that can still be done by you like applying for a credit card or a bank loan. However, if you are looking to take a loan for a big-ticket asset like a car or a home that you will both enjoy, you should consider carefully before making a joint application for the loan. In case your partner has a poor credit history, it could have a negative impact on your application and deny you a chance of getting a low rate of interest. If you are not residing in a community property state, you can simply leave your partner off the application and not have to deal with the credit issues. However, the downside of not having your spouse as a co-applicant is that you can use her income to qualify for a bigger loan and may have to look at properties with a lower purchase price.
Debt Can Kill Your Marriage
According to several studies, debt and money problems are among the top reasons for marriages failing. Bringing a lot of debt into the marriage by any one or both the spouses can invariably lead to a lot of stress that can take its toll on the marriage. Of course, if you are savvy, you should discuss debt issues well before getting married so that the partners are not shocked. According to a Forbes.com report, it is vital that both partners are completely truthful about their debts and more importantly, the habits that are the cause of the debt. You can jointly develop a plan to wind down the debt; while the partner with the higher income can take the lead, it is essential that the plan has the support of the other partner, else it is doomed to failure, and with time, even the marriage is liable to come under pressure. Sharing common goals for using the money can be inspirational and help the couple to take concrete steps for undertaking debt consolidation to get rid of debt.
It can be a pretty crazy time leading up to your marriage and you could very easily end up making irrational decisions in the heat of the moment and in a bid to look magnanimous. Do not start believing everything that you hear about debt and marriage; instead, use your common sense and knowledge of finance to make decisions that work to your benefit.