You've met the love of your life and can't wait to get married and share your future with them. Unfortunately, in addition to your partner's many wonderful qualities, they also have a lot of debt and perhaps even bad credit. While your significant other's financial difficulties shouldn't necessarily stop you from marrying them, it is definitely worthwhile to come up with a plan for handling the situation before you get married. With these four tips, you and your betrothed will be able to tackle their debt situation with minimal stress.
Have an Honest Discussion
In order to best deal with your partner's debt, it's critical to first sit down and have an honest heart-to-heart. Try to approach this conversation in a loving, non-judging manner, so that your partner doesn't feel attacked. The goal of the discussion should be to honestly assess your partner's debt and begin to come up with a plan for how the two of you will deal with it.
Important facts to include in the discussion include debt amounts, interest rates, both of your credit scores. You will most likely need your partner to gather their bills and credit report, and you will also want to take careful notes. It's also a good idea to discuss your financial goals at this time.
Go to Credit Counselling with Your Partner
Once you have an accurate idea of your partner's debt, the two of you can meet with a credit counselor. A credit counselling specialist can help your partner (or the two of you) come up with an effective debt repayment plan. Credit counsellors can also sometimes work directly with creditors to reduce payments or interest, or even eliminate some of the unpaid debt entirely through debt settlements.
Determine How Much You Will Help
While you are most likely not legally liable for debt your partner acquired before your marriage, you may still wish to help them pay it off, especially if you are in the financial position to easily do so. By helping them to pay off their debts, you will demonstrate a high degree of commitment to your shared future. You will also help yourself in the long run, as getting your partner's financial situation in better shape will help the two of you get approved for home or other joint loans in the future.
Even if you're unable or unwilling to help pay off their debts, you can still play a role. If you're generally better with your finances than your significant other is, you may both agree that you should be the one to "hold the purse strings" or manage your finances as a couple. If your partner is undisciplined with credit cards, they may wish for you to be the one to hold onto the physical cards so that they won't be tempted to charge things unnecessarily.
Avoid Future Bad Debt
Now that you and your partner have a handle on their debt, it's imperative to avoid bad debt moving forward. This is especially credit for you, as you will be liable for (and your credit score will be affected by) any joint credit accounts or loans you open together as a married couple. Do your best to avoid taking on any major new debts until your partner's old debts are under control, or ideally paid off.
Paying off credit card balances in full each month to avoid high interest charges, living within your means, and paying all bills on time are the most important rules to follow in avoiding bad debt and bad credit.
By following these four tips, you and your partner will be able to navigate a tricky financial situation with ease, allowing you to focus on each other and your future together.