The first couple years of my marriage probably would have been smoother if my wife and I had talked money before we tied the knot. Young adults often forget that when you get married, your finances and those of your spouse become intrinsically linked as soon as the I Dos are spoken. This can create significant stress as you start your lives together.
Debt and Marriage
I came into my marriage with tremendous debt from college, but my wife had none. Neither one of us had a stellar credit report-me because of my debt-to-income ratio, her because she’d never established credit at all. We struggled because we had to pay off my student loans and credit card debt while she was trying to establish a credit file.
It was hard. If we had thought to talk money before marriage, we might have been able to come up with a plan before the big day. We would have been prepared for the challenges, and we might have done things differently. Nowadays, this is even more important.
The degree to which your finances are linked with your spouse’s depends on where you live. According to Nolo, community property states are different from common law states. In a community property state, all debts and assets owned by one spouse are also owned by the other.
My wife and I were married in a common law property state, but that didn’t protect us from all aspects of marriage and money. For example, if we applied for a loan or attempted to rent an apartment, both our histories were considered.
Preparing for Money Troubles
Prenuptial agreements are becoming more popular these days, and are no longer considered appropriate only for situations in which large sums of money are involved. According to Nolo, prenuptial agreements can help keep finances separate between married people if they wish to do so.
In my case, we would have benefited merely from talking about money before marriage. We should have sat down and gone over our financial histories, from debts to assets, to bank accounts. We didn’t do any of those things, and we entered our marriage financially blind, so to speak.
Financially counseling is likewise not a bad idea. If you and your future spouse sit down with an expert and go over your finances, you might be able to sort out solutions to problems that you wouldn’t have been able to find for yourselves. A professional can mediate your discussions and pose suggestions to help you prepare for your lives together.
Whatever the case, learn from my mistakes. Young adults about to get married should not avoid the subject of money. In fact, they should take time to talk about it, to discuss it openly and honestly, and to identify any future problems that might create stress in their marriage.