The Importance of Financial Conversations Before Getting Married
Love is a beautiful feeling. It makes us feel alive, exhilarated and gives us strength to conquer all odds. The strength of love can make people do things they never thought they were capable of doing. For many, nothing is better than finding a best friend and life partner. Unfortunately, for at least half of the world’s married population, marriage won’t last forever. The issues leading to divorce are varied and complex, but in my experience as a Phoenix divorce attorney, the top reason leading to divorce is stress related to money.
Finances can be a sensitive issue, and talking about them before marriage may spoil the romance. But it’s a conversation that must be done. The failure to address money issues before marriage can put undue pressure on the relationship and lead to stress, conflict and unhappiness. If you want to get married and stay married, talk with your significant other about money before you walk down the aisle. Here are the reasons why it’s vital to do so:
The Best Way to Start a Marriage is Fresh
Before getting married, talk with your partner about the debt that you each have, whether that debt is “good” or “bad” and whether you should put a wedding on hold until you pay all, some or most of it off. Entering into a marriage with pre-existing bad debt can be overwhelming. Instead of focusing on your financial future together, your energy will be spent figuring out how to manage money messes created in “another life.” The best way to start a marriage is fresh, so pay down debt and build savings before tying the knot.
You Want to Have Resources Available When Emergency Strikes
Emergencies don’t always give ample notice. Cars break down, roofs leak and babies come unexpectedly. Having a mountain of debt could affect your ability to get an emergency loan. In other words, if you are forced to pay your mechanic for an engine overhaul instead of paying the Best Buy credit card bill, stress and tension in the marriage will go through the roof when the bill collectors start a ringin’.
Being in Debt Could be a Sign of a Deeper Emotional Issue
Spending can be an addiction. A spending “problem” doesn’t mean a person isn’t “good.” It could, however, mean a person is satisfying an emotional need by heading to the casino with credit cards in hand every weekend. As with any other addiction, the one with the “problem” has to acknowledge the “problem” to begin recovery process. The failure to admit a problem while single-handedly causing the financial destruction of your relationship or your partner’s credit will certainly doom the marriage.
The Excessive Debt of One Party Could be a Sign That You Don’t Share the Same Values
Before tying the knot, have a frank discussion over your respective spending philosophies, how you will spend as a couple, and what your financial goals are for the relationship. Doing this before getting married will either get you more into alignment on finances or not. Either way, you will be walking into a marriage with open eyes over the spending values of your partner. That will put you one step ahead of many couples.
A Large Amount of Debt Can Be an Obstacle When Trying to Buy a House, Car or Major Shared Purchase
People get married to build a life together. Most individuals believe that with a partner, they can build something bigger and greater than they could alone. Imagine the shock and disappointment that will happen when a person learns they (the couple) can’t qualify for a home loan because of the high debt-to-income ratio of one spouse. When you and your partner are talking about your mutual financial future, consider whether debt already exists and whether being in debt could affect the realization of your shared financial dreams.
In Many Places in the United States, a Partner is “on the Hook” for the Spending of the Spouse Whether the Partner Knew About the Spending or Not
Regardless of whether the spending is caused by a lack of shared financial values or an addiction, debt could plague both parties during the marriage and after the marriage is over. In the event of divorce, depending on the laws of your state, you could be on the hook for paying some of that debt back…even if you had no idea it was happening! The fact that you or your partner has racked up significant debt while dating could be a clue that a problem exists and needs to be addressed.
If Your Spouse has Children from Another Relationship, Back Child Support Debt Could Lead to the Examination of YOUR Finances
A person might be the best parent on the planet. That same person could have a gigantic judgment against him or her for child support arrearages. Depending on your jurisdiction, the failure to pay child support without a good reason could lead to serious penalties (which could include incarceration). In evaluating the reasons for the failure to pay child support, a court will want to examine a person’s whole financial picture. This picture could include the standard of living as evidenced by joint bank account statements and joint tax returns. This will likely make one spouse feel exposed, violated and stressed out, things which are not good for the overall health of the relationship.
If You and Your Spouse Plan to Start a Family, Prepare for Large Chunks of Money to Begin Leaving Your Bank Account Immediately
Before a woman gives birth, she can bet her bottom dollar that her OB/GYN will want a guarantee of payment (or payment in full) for the delivery before it happens. Even if you have insurance and are responsible for a small portion of the whole cost of the birth, your out-of-pocket expense could still be thousands of dollars. In the months and weeks after the birth, expect to receive bills from other medical providers for blood tests, hearing tests, and various unexpected types of tests.
Borrowing Money During Marriage to Pay Debt Could Negatively Affect Important Relationships
In cases when disaster does strike during marriage and people aren’t able to make ends meet because of unpaid debt, they turn to family and friends. If a family member or friend is not able to help by giving a loan, this could cause tension in the relationship, especially if either side harbors resentment over the loan request or the failure to lend.
If You Are Planning a Special Wedding Ceremony, Prepare to Accumulate More Debt
The cost of a wedding can get pricey. The wedding industry is profitable for those in it and much to your surprise, you could be charged extra for something as simple as the type of chair.
In conclusion, finances can be a sensitive topic to discuss before getting married; nevertheless, it’s a conversation that must be done. The failure to address money issues before marriage can put undue pressure on the relationship and lead to stress, conflict and unhappiness. If you want to get married and stay married, talk with your significant other about money before you walk down the aisle. In the long run, it will be worth it.