Marriage is usually based first and foremost upon love. It’s an amazing thing when two people decide they want to spend their future lives together. What is not always as obvious is how large a role finances tend to play in relationships.
The American Psychological Association found that nearly a third of adults with life partners have cited money as a major source of conflict within their relationships. People often have different spending habits, savings goals and incomes — so it only makes sense that conflicts would arise. When you add debt into that mix, the financial side of marriage can become even more complicated.
Here are some important points to know for getting married with debt without letting it become a major source of conflict.
Debt Incurred Before Marriage Stays Separate
The first thing on newlyweds’ minds may be whether any debt they’ve accrued before getting married now counts as joint debt. The short answer? It usually doesn’t. As NerdWallet notes, debt brought into marriage by a partner is usually legally the responsibility of the individual who incurred it. This means it only has the capability to affect their credit score and history.
And who’s responsible for debt accumulated after marriage? It depends if both of your names are on the debt or not. If one partner takes out the debt in their name, it becomes their responsibility to repay it for the sake of their financial records.
How married couples approach debt depends on the degree to which they decide to merge finances. It’s worth coming up with a plan for handling personal finances before you exchange vows.
There Are Many Options for Debt Elimination
It’s easy to feel like you’ll never get out of debt, especially if you’re currently unsure how to pay back thousands of dollars.
But it’s important for married couples facing debt to remember there are lots of potential ways to pay it off. The most important step is getting on the same page as your partner and coming up with a plan — debt doesn’t have to be a permanent “third wheel” in your otherwise great marriage.
Here’s a sampling of possible debt elimination strategies to keep in mind:
- Do-it-yourself repayment: Targeting one debt at a time while paying the minimum on all others, either by balance size or interest rate.
- Debt consolidation: Streamlining multiple debts into a single monthly payment through a special loan, ideally with lower interest rates than the original accounts.
- Debt settlement: Negotiating with creditors in an attempt to get them to accept a lower payment, often through a structured program like Freedom Debt Relief.
- Debt management: Making payments to a credit counseling agency instead of directly to creditors, often at lower interest rates.
- Bankruptcy: Legally declaring you’re unable to pay your debts as they stand, then either forfeiting any assets you can offer or repaying your debts on a court-mandated schedule.
The Reason for the Debt Is Just as Important as the Amount
Say you find out your fiancé is bringing significant debt into the marriage. What’s your reaction? You may initially be worried about bringing heavy financial baggage into your union.
Before you write off the possibility of happy matrimony with someone carrying debt, it’s important to determine the source. There’s a big difference between taking on student loans to get a degree that will increase earning potential and taking on continual debt to support “a financially reckless lifestyle.” Once you find out the full story, you can make a plan — together.
Getting married with debt is a situation many have successfully navigated. Above all, it requires open communication and a willingness to explore your options.