Sharing Futures, Sharing Scores

You’ve found your soul mate and you’re goin’ to the chapel and you’re goin’ get married. Congratulations. But are your credit scores compatible?

It isn’t a particularly romantic conversation, but talking about your credit history and how to manage your new financial life together is something couples can do to avoid disappointment or embarrassment once the honeymoon is over. It’s something to take seriously, considering divorce lawyers and therapists say one of the most prevalent causes of a destroyed marriage is financial troubles.

Stay Open and Transparent: Share Scores

As mundane as it sounds, looking at your intended’s credit report could be the best way to determine if they can handle money issues in a responsible manner. If your fiancé does not want to show you his or her credit report, that may give you pause. If they are willing, set a date to look over each other’s histories and discuss any red flags. Your fiancé did have a life before meeting you. There could be very legitimate reasons for past problems, and your fiancé may not appreciate feeling like they are on trial when you are both trying to map out a financial management strategy. Identify problem issues and come up with a plan to address them. But do it cooperatively.

Pay It Off Before Getting Hitched

You should consider paying off large credit card balances or past due items showing up on a credit report prior to your wedding. Doing so allows the two of you to have a fresh start before any financial squabbles come up in your marriage. Sometimes it seems like marital spats are all about money or kids. But considering you’ll have new financial issues to hammer out, bringing old ones into the mix could hamper things.

Separate Bank Accounts

You may share a life together but you probably don’t have to sever all of your independent financial ties. If your partner has a significantly lower credit score going in to your marriage, you may want to consider keeping your financial lives separate until that score goes up. Again, this is a decision you would make with the understanding that, down the road, it will be a beneficial choice for a married unit. Marriage transactions, like buying a home, purchasing the minivan when junior arrives and taking family vacation, can require good and sustained credit to consistently enjoy. With a separate bank account, the spouse with credit challenges can still have some monetary independence so they can make purchases without impacting your financial status.

Joint Goals

Even when the two of you are maintaining separate bank accounts, that does not necessarily mean you aren’t working toward goals as a couple. In fact, maintaining a separate bank account for the partner with poor credit history may help keep the better credit score high enough to make financial plans a reality. Remember, if you make a plan, try and stick to it, even if it means your funds come from two different sources.

Spending Habits

Let’s be honest: What matters to one spouse may not be all that important to the other. If your partner is spending money on things you don’t appreciate, there can be resentment. It may help to determine how much of your total incomes each spouse can have for disposable and impulse purchases. If you both agree ahead of time on a set amount each month, this arrangement allows for individualized spending habits without compromising the overall financial health of the marriage.

Be the Responsible One

If you are more capable of properly handling the finances, logic says you should be the one doing it. Your partner has other strengths that he or she can bring to the relationship. But, whatever the case, keep each other informed on the finances. Respecting the fact that one partner is better at managing money will help make this arrangement work.

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