Ah, marriage. One would think that the bonds of marriage are so pure that they could never be touched by anything as modern and mundane as credit, but you might be surprised. In fact, finances are cited as the #1 reason why people divorce. Things can start out nicely and then spiral downward quickly — job losses, illnesses, broken businesses and more are all factors that can really stress a marriage. Sure, sometimes you can work your way through it, but if you have a spouse that wants to work it out and a spouse that just wants to end it, then it’s hard to actually work things out.
If you got married with clean credit and your spouse doesn’t have it, you might think that you don’t have to really worry about anything. Yet that’s not the case at all. In fact, if you don’t work out an additional agreement such as a pre-nuptial agreement, you are actually responsible for your spouse’s debts, and they are responsible for yours. That is why it’s so important to actually talk about finances before you get married. Some people find the subject unromantic, and it could be seen that way.
Yet if you look at it from a different perspective, isn’t it right to be totally honest with your partner on every subject? You wouldn’t jump into marriage with someone that is undecided about having children if you really wanted children, so why would you dive into a new life with someone without even stopping to see what their financial picture looks like?
We’re not suggesting that you do this out of cruelty or malice — you are asking about their financial history because the two of you will have goals that directly depend on everyone having a decent financial history. For example, you probably want to get a house for you and your new spouse, right? Well, if one of you has bad credit, that’s going to result in higher interest rates and bigger monthly payments – for the same house that a couple with moderate to great credit would have a much lower monthly payment for. Unless you plan on paying for everything in cash, your credit score is going to matter. Unless you never want to own anything that needs to be paid for with credit, your credit score is always going to matter.
Let’s say that your spouse really does have bad credit. It’s not really the end of the world if they do — you just have to make sure that you work out a plan to get the other spouse out of debt. The point here is that you don’t want to get angry, start yelling, or otherwise make your spouse feel like they’re less of a human being because they don’t have great credit like you do. Perhaps they don’t have the same background in personal finance that you do? You can point them to any of our personal finance articles, or you can also look for a non-profit debt management company in your area. They would be more than happy to work out a payment schedule for your spouse that can help them get out of debt.
Don’t forget about explaining debt consolidation to your spouse. By combining all of their debts into one that has just one monthly payment, they can get out of debt faster. In addition, you will need to combine two incomes in order to get the debt paid down faster. It might mean that you’ll sacrifice some of the creature comforts that people look forward to, but it’s better than trying to figure out how you’re going to make your regular bills on top of the debt that your spouse has.
It’s going to be a challenging time, but as long as you support each other, the two of you will be just fine!