When you are dating and planning to marry, you might often hear that “love is blind.” Nowhere is that more true than in the area of finances. Before marriage, financial issues don’t seem too important and can take a backseat to other topics such as children, politics and religion. But take heed: financial issues are the main reason for divorce, according to financial whiz and guru, Suze Orman, as quoted in Forbes magazine (“Till Money Do Us Part”). Before you rush to tie the knot with the love of your life, take a long, hard look at his/her finances. Here are just a few reasons why you should not marry a person who brings as much debt as love to the marriage.
A person who has amassed a lot of debt when single will probably not suddenly change financial habits once he/she gets married. Of course, you need to consider the reasons for your potential spouse’s debt as well. Did an accident or emergency health issue cause unexpected medical expenses? There are exceptions to every rule. However, if the debt is a result of poor planning, refusing to work or overspending, you will want to think long and hard about marrying this person. You will need to sit down with your future spouse long before the wedding to discuss hard, financial issues. Talk about the subject calmly with your partner. If this person becomes defensive or argumentative every time the topic of money comes up, that is another indication of serious issues that could cause financial devastation to your marriage.
Sometimes the presence of mountains of debt tells a lot about a person’s character. While you can live with a person’s quirks, such as leaving socks on the closet floor or forgetting to put the lid on the toothpaste, living with serious character flaws is an entirely different matter. Again, look at the reasons for the debt. Irresponsibility, a lack of discipline, failure to hold down gainful employment and poor money-management skills often speak of deeper issues that a person should deal with prior to marriage. Most people will not change these types of character flaws for a spouse. In fact, those flaws will suck you in so that you will eventually have financial struggles as well.
On the other hand, for a marriage to succeed, both partners need to have similar goals, especially when it comes to money. If one person isn’t bothered by immense debt, and on the contrary, spends everything he/she can as fast as it comes in, a frugal partner will feel frustrated and resentful.The old adage from Ben Franklin holds true for money and marriage: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”Financial planning can challenge the most well-intentioned person, let alone someone who has difficulty managing finances. Not only should your potential partner have a handle on his/her debt or a plan to tackle it, there should also be a long-term plan for savings, investments and an emergency fund.
In some cases, the future spouse with lots of debt truly wants to change. He/she can prove a willingness to change in several concrete ways: taking a class on money management, exercising fiscal responsibility, and holding onto employment. Agreement regarding financial issues in marriage contributes toward marital happiness and success.