You’ve met the love of your life; that special someone who makes your heart beat a little faster at just a passing glance. Whether you are just sharing the joy of merging furniture or taking the big plunge and saying, “I do”, be sure you come down from cloud nine long enough to look far into the future and plan for reality. Financial reality.
After you settle into domestic bliss, and many nights of burned dinners, there will be monthly bills in your mailbox (or inbox). This is the reality for which you need to prepare. Any relationship counselor will tell you that the single issue couples fight about the most is finances. In fact, a 2012 study published in Family Relations showed that couples who fight regularly about finances are 30 percent more likely to divorce. Help build a better foundation by planning ahead and sorting out a plan to get debt-free (or stay debt-free) together. Here are a few pointers to help get you started:
- Let’s talk. Have an open and honest conversation about what debts you both bring to the relationship. While this can be very uncomfortable, it’s crucial you understand each other’s financial situation and plan a budget. This will have to include a plan for paying off debt and saving money. Understand where you are now before trying to plan your future.
- Understand your rights. If you get married, you are not responsible for any debts that were incurred before marriage. After marriage, the story changes; especially in community property states where you could be held liable for 50 percent of the balance. States recognizing common law marriage also complicate the issue.There are different situations for co-habitating couples, wherein you may be held responsible for your partner’s debt. For example, if you co-signed a loan, you may be accountable for the remaining balance unpaid by your partner. Consider it wise to know your rights before signing any loan documents.
- Expect the best, prepare for the worst. No one begins a relationship thinking of Franklin Coveys’ famous quote, “Begin with the end in mind.” We all expect it to last forever. But it is always best to plan for “what if.” Have a joint bank account for household expenses and joint debt. But also keep separate accounts for personal debt that was incurred before the relationship began. In this way, there isn’t any co-mingling of names to make a messy ending.
- First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…the debt payoff. While you are wisely planning your future, include debt payoff. Certain things must come first. The amount of debt you carry can affect your ability to obtain an auto loan and even a mortgage. Paying for your children’s college can push you over the debt cliff if not managed well from early on.
- Lower what you’re paying on your debts. That doesn’t sound quite right, does it? It seems as though you would want to make bigger payments to pay down debt. But consolidating loans, refinancing, doing balance transfers to credit cards with lower interest, etc., you can help lower your debt and your payments. Read the fine print first. Some of these strategies can cost you more in the long run. For example, a refinance may cost you more in fees than keeping your original loan.
- Don’t go it alone. Make paying off your debt a team success. Don’t allow your finances to take over the relationship. You and your partner can conquer your debt together. It won’t always be easy and whether you or your partner is the one who brought the debt, it takes some patience, kindness, and support. But together, the two of you can be finance warriors.
Learning to develop and balance a budget may be challenging at first. Getting a grasp on your debt alone is sometimes frustrating and bringing a partner’s debt into that situation may prove to be overwhelming. That may be just the time to contact a credit repair specialist, such as Ovation Credit, to help you understand how to get your finances under control before they take control of you.