Few things make us feel as sensitive and vulnerable as sharing our financial picture with someone, even if that person is the person we love and trust most. But no matter how difficult, it’s vitally important to be open and transparent with your future spouse about money. Find the courage to ask (and answer) the tough questions up front. You’re laying the groundwork for dealing with your shared finances in a healthy, straightforward way. That’s essential for a successful marriage!
Ready to start that conversation with your future spouse? Here two important questions to cover:
Question #1: What’s in your credit report?
Any joint account you open will require a credit report being checked for both you and your spouse. If your spouse’s credit is too poor to use for a home or car loan, you may be tempted to take on those financial responsibilities on your own. But be careful: depending on where you live in the United States, should you face a divorce, you may be solely responsible for the debt owed on your home or car.
Few of us has a perfect history with money; it’s how we learn from our mistakes and move forward that matters. That’s why communication is so important. If you have better credit than your spouse, you can help him/her improve his/her credit score by practicing the following healthy credit habits together: for example, paying bills on time and maintaining low balances on credit accounts. Take the time to resolve any credit issues fully before you open any new accounts together.
Question #2: Are you carrying significant debt?
Debt can put a big strain on a marriage. And, although legally you’re not liable for debt your spouse had before you got married, realistically, once you’re married, you will likely be involved in paying off your spouse’s debts. That’s why it’s important to be open with about how much you owe before you get married. This way, there are no surprises – you’re building trust and teamwork by deciding together how to handle debt that’s still on the books.
Now that your long-term financial security is about to become a team project, it’s time to make a habit of thinking in terms of steps to you can take together, rather than separately.
That’s why my final suggestion is: Schedule regular conversations about money. You don’t have to have a specific question or project to tackle. There’s no reason to wait for financial issues to crop up. Before issues arise, share your history with money; discuss and reconcile your spending habits; and share your expectations and goals for your money. Set aside a regular time every month (call it a Financial Date Night) to assign money-related tasks, talk about future financial decisions, and review progress toward your long-term goals. This habit will reduce money-related stress and support your relationship over the long term.