Money Matters When Considering Matrimony

Continuing on in the quest to quell my initial objections to a third marriage, our respective financial status was another facet I had to come to terms with before I agreed to become Mrs from Ms.

Dollar sign casting a long shadow
image via stock.xchng | illustration by rigor789

Ages ago I heard that sex and money were the two main reasons for arguments in relationships.

For the average couple of a first-wedding age in their early-to-mid 20s, both halves of the whole are either in college, just out of or just starting those entry-level jobs. Money has more to do with making ends meet than anything else.

Fast forward to the second or third-time bride and the picture might look a little different:

  • you’ve probably been in your career for several years, maybe even gotten a promotion or three;
  • you may have some savings, a retirement plan or investments;
  • you may also have a certain amount of debt either in credit cards, a mortgage, business loans or some combination thereof.

Remarriages also mean there’s a past to be considered. Does one partner have children from a previous marriage? Aside from the step-parent duties the other may be taking on, there might be child support or alimony to figure into your future budgets.

My financial past is has a couple of significant hills and valleys. I’ve been so upside down while finishing my degree that I couldn’t pay my rent and car payment in the same month (and only a bail out from a friend kept said car from being repossessed). And I’ve also paid off all the debt I was left with after my first divorce and lived credit card-free for a few years.

I may not have completely learned my lesson last time as now I’ve got a wallet full of store and major credit cards that I was not as wise as I meant to be with. Add to that a hefty student loan and my financial picture isn’t as bright as I want it to be. I’ve put a strategy in place for paying each off, in turn and over time, but it won’t be complete before we’re married. And that bugged me since Mr. Road Trip has recently paid off all of his major debts. I really was worried that I’d be burdening him, credit-wise, were we to marry before I took care of all of that pesky consumer debt.

Things like personal credit cards generally aren’t affected by one’s marital state, I learned (unless you add your partner onto the account, that is). Student loans, however, especially if you’ve petitioned for a reduced payment based on income or hardship, do take a spouse’s income into account to some degree, but they still belong to the person who accrued the debt, not to the marriage that came after.

For this reason, and to avoid any shocking revelations in the future, it’s a good idea to sit down and have a heart-to-heart (or, should I say, checkbook-to-checkbook) discussion with your intended, just to make sure you both know what you’re getting into. This is a good time to discuss things like combining checking accounts versus keeping them separate, future big purchases and the realities thereof and how you’ll handle the household bills (and which ones could be combined) once you’re married.

Because we were already living together–and Mr. Road Trip actually had a couple periods of unemployment after he moved to Florida courtesy of those wonderful economic dips a while back–we were pretty aware of where we both stood. Still, it was worth a discussion on our part just to make sure–we all know what assuming does, right?

On the upside–two people mean two incomes (usually) and that means a better combined buying power if you do want to make a significant purchase in the future.

Was debt something that crossed your mind before saying ‘yes’?
How did you make peace with the money monster?

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