Connect Marriage

Four Steps to Securing Your Financial Future in Marriage 

Sara Gelsheimer  |  May 9, 2023

Joining your life with a partner is exciting, but you can’t let wedded bliss blur your personal financial plans.

It’s no secret that money problems are a leading cause of divorce. And, as you probably know, many couples aren’t even close to being on the same page when it comes to their finances. If your spouse brings debt and credit problems to your marriage, how can you make sure your financial wellness isn’t compromised? 

The fact is, it’s up to us to make sure our finances aren’t negatively impacted by our spouses. After all, no one else has the best interests of our wallets — and our hearts — in mind more than we do. Here’s what to do to protect yourself — and possibly — your relationship.

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Set Financial Expectations Early

Love has many mysteries, and money management is (unfortunately) often one of them. Despite the fact that disagreements over money are the second leading cause of divorce behind infidelity, opposites continue to attract. Often one person is a spender, and the other is a saver. This dynamic can lead to stress and anxiety when it comes to finances or even financial infidelity in marriage, which is when couples lie to each other about money. But even so, with nearly two-thirds of all marriages starting in debt, according to one study, it seems that love continues to conquer all.

Experian compared debt balances between men and women and found that men have more overall debt than women. So, are women more accepting of marrying someone with financial baggage? That’s a difficult question to answer. The Great Recession caused more debt stress in women than in men. As the recession ended, men saw their debt stress ease up, but women saw it stay the same. There’s no doubt that some of us are shouldering quite a burden on our own. That’s why there’s no reason you should have to add your partner’s money issues to the mix.

There’s no shame in lending a financial hand to your partner, or asking them for help. However, before walking down the aisle, you must know your partner’s financial expectations in marriage, as well as their financial history. Specifically you should have an understanding of any debt they owe. Don’t worry, though; you won’t be liable for their debt once you say “I do” — unless you borrow money together. If you and your beloved decide to hit the loan market (be it for a house or otherwise), the bank will review both of your credit records. So, keep in mind that if your other half is carrying around a less-than-stellar score, it could affect the terms of your loan.

Protect Yourself Financially From Your Spouse

Joining your life with someone else’s is a big step, and you can’t let the financial aspect fall by the wayside. Consider these steps as a way to set financial expectations in marriage:   

  • Remember that their bad habits are not your responsibility to fix. If you’re in a good financial position and you’d like to help them out with their debts, that’s fine. But make sure you’re taking care of yourself first.
  • Try to avoid taking out loans together. If your spouse has poor financial habits, they likely have poor credit. Taking out loans together means you’ll probably get worse terms. In other words, you may have to pay a higher interest rate for the life of the loan. And if your spouse misses a payment, it will impact your credit. But being the sole borrower has its risks, too: You’re the only one on the line to make the payments, and your spouse would have no legal responsibility for them.
  • Communication is key, so talk about your current financial situation. Put a game plan into place to pay down debts.Get really specific here and even decide in which order you will knock down the debt. The avalanche method is one proven way to make this happen. Review your budget and cut where you can until your high-interest debts are paid off.
  • It’s no surprise that financial therapy has become very common, as money troubles are a major reason couples argue or divorce. This type of therapy is the perfect blend of logic and emotion, like a beautiful marriage between your wallet and your heart. It’s all about helping you make smart money decisions and tackling any financial woes. It’s a special brand of therapy that requires certifications from esteemed organizations, such as the Financial Therapy Association. Don’t be ashamed to get help from an unbiased third party who can help you both.

Remember, it’s OK to want to help someone you love. It’s OK to marry someone who has bad financial habits. But it’s also OK — and highly recommended — to take care of yourself first. You’ve worked hard for your money, your good credit, and your financial situation. Don’t let anyone ruin it!


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