A wedding is rarely a joyous occasion. More often it’s stressful, expensive and an ongoing parade of complaints from pushy family members. The only real joyous weddings are the ones where the couple skips the ceremony, takes the money they would have spent on the reception and has a fabulous week in Las Vegas. That’s not the voice of cynicism talking, that’s the voice of experience.
Spending lavishly on a wedding is only one of the financial mistakes many make when tying the knot, the other is not knowing the financial character of the person they’re marrying. A full thirty-six percent don’t know anything about their partner’s financial status and another thirty-six percent don’t know anything about their partner’s spending habits before making a legal commitment to that person. Depending on the state, you could be marrying your partner’s debts and you’re definitely marrying his or her poor financial habits which can set you back decades.
Despite the importance of a credit score in the debt economy, only forty percent, less than half of people knew their partner’s credit score before getting married. Men were likely to spend more before telling their partner ($1,259 vs $383) and one in five men were more likely to keep a secret financial stash. Those numbers are based on a survey of 1,002 newlyweds.
For two in five newly married couples credit scores were a source of stress. One in five had to cosign for a deadbeat partner in order for them to qualify for credit. Another third didn’t know their partner’s student loan balance before they got married.
In the modern world of the debt economy, entering into a legally binding institution with another person without knowing his or her financial status is just crazy. Here are some of the more common red flags.
Major Debt, No Payoff Plan
Anyone can acquire debt for a lot of reasons but having major debts and not be working on a plan to pay them off is a definite red flag. Deadbeats always have a perfectly plausible excuse for debt, usually blaming a former spouse or partner. The danger sign is them not having a plan in place for paying off that debt before you get married. There’s no harm in putting off the legalities a year or two until a major portion of that debt is retired. Nine out of ten times, that debt will be just as bad or worse by the time you take the next accounting. At the end of three, six or twelve months there will be another plausible excuse for the debt. I didn’t get the raise I was counting on, we took that trip to Hawaii, doctor bills, blah, blah, blah. If your partner isn’t saying no to expenses when you’re together, that debt will come along with them down the aisle.
You Have Different Attitudes Toward Debt And Money
Couples that work on financial issues together are more likely to report being happy and stay together longer. In the old days religion was a major divider of married couples but in these days of declining church attendance, that has become less significant. But without a compatible attitude toward spending, you won’t have much of a future. Instead of a happy marriage, you’ll have debt, fights over spending and endless strife.
Another financial danger sign is a partner who can’t hang on to a job. That will figure when you try to get a car loan, insurance or a mortgage. It’s bad enough dealing with unemployment when the economy tanks, but having a job loss strike out of the clear blue can be devastating, especially for people trying to manage student loans.
The bottom line here is have the talk before you sign that marriage certificate. These days a pre-nup is far more socially acceptable and even expected when marrying into some wealthy families. Rich people don’t stay rich by accident, so take a page out of their playbook before you get hitched.