‘TIL DEBT DO US PART
‘TIL DEBT DO US PART:
What Couples Should Know
Before and After Getting Married
By Charles White
Spring is the time of year for renewal. Within this season, seeds planted come to life, flowers begin to bloom, birds sing songs of joy and men and women are falling in love. Soon, love turns into commitment and, many times, that means marriage.
When couples first consider marriage, usually, all is right with the world. They believe that nothing will ever go wrong with the relationship, and, even if it does, their love can handle it. This may be a “Pollyanna thought” to those who’ve never been in love or who have seen their love go sour. But life finds a way of testing even the happiest of relationships, and it is the houses built upon the strongest foundations that will best weather the storms that life may bring.
In this article, I would like to share 5 things that couples can do both through education and financial action to save themselves from years of heartache and possible divorce. This advice comes from years of personal relationships and from seeing what works, what does not and from what I wish someone had told me.
Financial Counseling – Begin this process one to two years before getting married.
There is a saying that wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors. Couples should look for a financial professional they can be honest with regarding where they are presently and where they would like to go financially. The financial counseling room must be a safe place to talk over the hard things of life. I would suggest asking successful couples who they used for their financial counselors. A good place to start would be a church or house of worship.
Your financial counselor will help you determine which of you is the saver or the spender in your relationship. They’ll also evaluate your past good and bad habits with money, debt levels, etc. Financial brokerage company Charles Schwab offers free online resources and videos in the event you cannot find a counselor.
Pull Credit Reports – In getting down to brass tacks with each other, nothing will do it faster than pulling and reviewing each others’ credit reports. You can do this for free once a year by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Here, you will be able to access the 3 major credit bureau reports: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. These reports cover most financial information. However you will want to also pull a LexisNexis Full Disclosure report. Within this report, it will cover Court history (Misdemeanors, Felonies, Child Support, Tax Liens, etc) and Insurance history.
Present and Future Debt Levels – Nothing will destroy a relationship faster than by going into debt. Some would argue that there is good debt and bad debt, but the borrower is always a servant to the lender. It can be very frustrating when trying to save money for a house, car, vacation or the kids’ educations and only to realize that the bulk of your money has to go toward paying off a debt. Take a serious look at the present level of debt you and your future partner are carrying and decide how and when you are going to attack it. You don’t want to be one of the ones who go into a marriage with hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of debt with no plan or means of paying it off.
Determine the Income Earners – The world is ever-changing and the traditional marriages roles of the family earner are evolving right along with it. Within this paradigm shift, you will have to determine which of you is going to be the primary earner within the family, what will be their projected income and the length of time that they will continue to make money. Does a partner plan on going back to school? Do one or both of the earners work in flexible or mobile industries? What will happen once children come into the picture? Does one partner want to be a stay-at-home parent? What types of insurance plans do you have to protect both your health and your assets? Could elderly or infirmed parents potentially move into your home in the future? All of these factors impact a household’s finances and should be carefully considered and discussed before marriage.
Set Joint Goals – Marriage can be sweet and sustained if you know what to expect and have defense against any future surprises. A goal is a written, time-defined future event or item that both of you should work toward. The goal may be buying a house, fan advanced degree, vacations or even the wedding, itself. The purpose of setting joint goals is so that both of you can work together for the same purpose. Oftentimes couples have hidden agendas and they assume or plan their own personal goals and hope their loved one comes along without a fuss. A better strategy for preserving the unity within your relationship is effective, direct communication and laying everything out on the table so that you can plan for major events in your life together.
About the Author: Charles White is the president of AAA Data Information, located in Portland, Oregon. He can be contacted at email@example.com