Should a Hidden Financial Past Stop Your Wedding?

‘Til Debt Do You Part.

Congratulations! You are endeavoring to step forward onto the path of lifelong love, commitment, and togetherness with someone you cannot live without. You’ve made the wedding plans, you’ve done the responsible thing and mapped out your five year plan in detail  (savings, spending, investments, mortgage, and eventually kids), and now you’re as excited as punch to share your secure and detailed plan with your future spouse. You are so excited about what the future holds for you and your beloved one until you show them your brilliant financial plan and they turn as white as a sheet.

Uh, oh.

What could make your future partner for life go from the excited spouse-to-be to the terrified shell of a human before you? Are they hiding financial secrets? Is there something buried in their financial past that can turn your five year plan into five years of money hell?

Should you consider putting off the wedding until there is some financial transparency in your relationship, and when you find out the secrets they’ve been keeping, will you call the whole thing off or soldier on for the sake of true love?

I DON’T!

Before you call the preacher, caterer, and florist to call the whole thing off, you might want to consider finding out what financial secrets your partner is keeping. Some things, like defaulted student loans, aren’t as bad as $50,000 in gambling debt.

Let’s take a look at a few of the different kinds of financial secrets that people keep from each other. Yes, even people in relationships keep money secrets, which may already be an indicator of future issues.

Debt

Out of the hundreds of millions of people in the US, more than half of them have some form of debt such as credit card debt, school loan debt, mortgages, car financing, etc. Debt in and of itself isn’t a problem, unless that debt is so deep and entrenched that your partner couldn’t get a checking account no matter how hard he or she tried. If your partner is in debt, you can either add that debt to your five year plan to pay off over the course of the five years, ask them to pay down the debt before getting married, or just write them off completely. Yes, the latter option seems cold-hearted, but in the end the question is, “Do you want to spend your life with someone who has made and continued to make bad choices with other people’s money?”

Gambling

Out of all the addictions prevalent in the US, gambling is one of the most often hidden addictions. It is so easy to get online, play a few games of poker or Black Jack, lose, play again, lose, play again, win just enough to get the juices flowing again, play again, and then lose everything–without anyone really knowing. Unless someone shares a bank account with you, or has access to your money, he or she might not have a clue. By the end of the night your partner has lost thousands of dollars that he or she may or may not actually have to lose. Is that your money he or she is gambling away? Is that your future mortgage payment he or she is squandering on card games? Is he or she putting his or her momentary gratification before your secure future together?

Gambling is an addiction that is hard to break, and before you say, “I do”, you might want to say, “intervention.”

General Financial Ignorance

Sometimes past financial mistakes are just the result of poor financial planning, but sometimes they are the result of a complete and utter lack of money common sense. To your partner, is balancing a check book more like learning advanced physics? Does your partner max out each and every credit card in his or her wallet without ever considering that the money needs to be paid back? Does your partner shop like there’s no tomorrow and then hide the bill when tomorrow comes? Can you count the number of times he or she has paid the bills on time on one hand?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, you might want to consider enrolling your future spouse in a financial skills course, allowing time for them to prove that they’ve learned financial responsibility, and then setting the NEW date for your wedding.

The truth is that money is one of the biggest reasons marriages fall apart. If you start your marriage with financial secrets, a financially irresponsible spouse, and a boat load of debt, you can rest assured that your marriage won’t last long–so why get married in the first place?

Money shouldn’t keep two people who love each other apart. Really? Well, here are some questions that may go through your mind when considering whether to call off the wedding altogether to save yourself from monetary marital heartbreak.

I DO!

Can your intended spouse’s financial issues be fixed? Can your love for one another really cover a multitude of money sins? Can the trust you lost because of the money secrets be rebuilt? As a human being, I can totally understand the desire to find everlasting love and devotion with that one person, and I know that many will want to find the silver lining in the big dark cloud marked, “Marital Money Problems.” So, let’s look at the positive side of the money secrets issue.

We Can Fix This

If your beloved one is willing to take on the challenge of dealing with his or her past financial mistakes, there may be hope for you two. One of the first things you need to tackle together is to sit down and plan out a way to fix the issue(s). If your future spouse’s problem is debt, you can look into ways to reduce debt and raise their credit score quickly. You’ll need to order their free credit report and go from there. If your intended spouse has issues with gambling or shopping addiction, you need to seek professional help from a qualified addictions counselor. If your loved one is just generally a money idiot, you can enroll both of you (you should be there for moral support) in a money management course.

Generally speaking, most money problems can be fixed, but you BOTH have to be willing to put in the time and effort in order to get the wedding back on track.

Love Conquers All

I do believe that love is the most powerful emotion on the face of the earth, so it can conquer most problems. If you truly love one another and cannot imagine life without each other, then by all means, get married. Love has proven itself through many a marital spat over money, and if your love is strong enough, your marriage will survive your loved one’s past money indiscretions.

Can love conquer the fears, frustrations, and feelings of betrayal associated with gambling addiction? Can love conquer having to add thousands of dollars of debt to your monthly bill payments? Can love conquer the phone calls from the credit card companies harassing YOU for payment of months of outstanding bills? Can love conquer the feelings of anxiety, frustration, and hopelessness that can come with being in over your head financially?

If you think it can, go for it, but be prepared to sacrifice. Don’t think that I am a loveless killjoy; I am just being the Devil’s Advocate here. I am just being honest.

Trust and Credit Can Be Rebuilt

The truth is that if you love someone enough, you will eventually trust them again. Much like credit, trust can be rebuilt over time with careful handling, patience, and responsible actions.

With that in mind, here are your choices. You can get married now and spend the first few years of your marriage without the necessary trust in each other, or you can wait to get married and start your marriage off with at least a thin layer of financial trust rebuilt through hard work on both your parts. Either of these choices is preferable to not getting married to the love of your life, right? Think long and hard about that—you don’t want to make a mistake.

Through this article, I have tried to provide you with unbiased information and options regarding whether or not to proceed with the wedding after uncovering your beloved’s financial secrets.

Managing Mariage and Money

Marriage is a serious phase in anyone’s life. Not only will you be sharing your life with another person, but you will also be financially responsible for each other. Money can be an awkward subject to tackle especially if you are not on equal financial footing. However, with the right approach, money need not be a sore point for you as a couple.

Here are five ways to keep your marriage happy and at the same time be financially healthy as a couple.

1. Discuss Your Finances with Honesty and Transparency

Marriage is about trust and that includes transparency about money. Technically you should discuss this before getting married. If you haven’t gotten around to doing it yet, then you should as soon as you get back from that honeymoon. Rose-colored glasses should be set aside because marriage is also about practicality and reality.

Lay it all out for your spouse. Declare how much you make, what accounts and investments that you have, insurance policies that you already have, etc. The most awkward part is stating how much debt you have, but you need to do it anyway. Each of you has to be aware of what each other brings to the table. Consolidate all your financial records and keep them  in a safe place for easy retrieval.

2. Set a Budget and the Ground Rules for Handling Money

Having a two-income home doesn’t mean that you can go on a spending spree because you can suddenly afford to do so. Design your household budget together. Both of you should have inputs on how much you can spend on certain things. Set the ground rules for spending, saving, and handling money.

Review your expenses over the last few months to have a baseline when it comes to your spending habits for basic necessities, groceries, clothing, rent, leisure activities, etc. Set the dollar monthly limits per category. Also determine how you will be paying for it–cash or credit card. You also want to determine if there are any accounts that you might need to open.

To make sure that you are keeping within your budget, you will want to track your monthly expenses. Set aside some time each month to discuss financial matters with your spouse and take a look at how your spending is doing relative to the budget. Sticking to your budget takes cooperation, and you should both work as a team.

3. Set Your Financial Goals

Always look towards the future and set your financial goals together. They can be as serious as sending your future kids to an Ivy League university or as adventurous as a trip around the world once you retire. Once you have the goals in mind, estimate how much they would cost you in the future and work backwards from there. To be able to accomplish those goals, you must have a savings and investment plan as early as today. You can find a number of financial calculators that can help you figure out your own financial road map. Also, you will want to consider the services of a financial planner to help you figure things out.

4. Manage Your Debt

If you are old enough to get married then you should be old enough to act responsibly and that includes being responsible when it comes to managing your finances. Don’t act like a single person who doesn’t have a care in the world. You have a fiscal responsibility to your spouse and to the family that you will be having in the future. Think of that before going on a spending spree. You do not want to burden your spouse by incurring unnecessary debt.

On another note, keeping up with the neighbors is bad form. Every couple has a different financial situation and different financial goals. So, don’t compete with your neighbors, especially if you cannot afford it. It’s okay if you don’t buy the latest lawnmower or if you don’t have a membership to the country club. What’s important is that you stick to your budget and stay as debt-free as possible.

5. Make Sure You Have an Emergency Fund

Nothing in life is certain and that includes life as a married couple. You should always make it a priority to build an emergency fund that you can tap into when unexpected expenses occur. One of you might lose your job, somebody might get into an accident, or something in the house might need a major repair. These things are unplanned, and they might strain your finances. If you have an emergency fund, you can access that and still be able to make ends meet without going into major debt.

Money and marriage can be tricky. Finding the right balance takes some time. It is important that you talk about financial matters with your spouse and that you make decisions jointly.

Budgeting after the Wedding

Almost every aspect of our lives is connected to finance. When you get up and go to work, you are leaving the comfort of your bed for a paycheck. When you go to the grocery story each week, you pay money for the food you eat. Marriage is no different. While it is often associated with ideas of romance, sacrifice, commitment, marriage also has many connotations for our finances.

Forbes published an article listing 10 ways budgeting saved a marriage. The article forced me to reflect on how my wife and I have adjusted to being married as well as how and why money affects our finances as a married couple. Not as individual adults, but two people who are journeying together.

1. Increased Accountability – Similar to the Forbes article, my wife and I have noticed a fair level of accountability. If one of us wants to go out to lunch with a friend, that is one thing. But when we want to buy an item over $50, it requires the approval of the other person. We never set this hard and fast rule, but we just understand that when we spend extra money, it will affect the other person, so it’s important to check with the other person.

2. Intentional Living – While many of our friends are married, we have many friends that are still single. That is the way that things happen in the North East. People tend to stay single longer. Because being married at a young age is atypical, we have come to learn that we are more intentional with our money. Many others do not set goals or things that they want to accomplish. Instead, they see when and how they can spend their money. I am already saving for retirement, investing in a business or two, and doing everything I can to replace my income from my day job.

3. Two Incomes – While we have a little higher expenses than many of our single friends because there are two of us, we also have twice as much income. This makes it easy for us to save money and direct money towards our goals that we have established. It’s also nice because it gives us a little extra layer of security. While neither of us plan to lose our job anytime soon, if the worst did happen, we could survive a long time between the other person’s income and our emergency fund.

Coming to grips with your finances as a married person is quite different than a single person. It’s not always easy to adjust to the new expectations, but it certainly has its benefits. No one should marry for money, but for those who do marry, you need to learn to recognize the benefits and challenges that it has on your money.