The span between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day is known as Engagement Season. If you were one of those happy couples sporting a new diamond over the holidays, you definitely weren’t alone. By some estimates, more than seven million people got engaged last year on Valentine’s alone.
That’s right, seven million.
No matter where or when the question was popped, getting engaged means it’s time to get serious – about your finances. When couples marry, the vast majority also bring their combined debt to the nuptials. And once you’ve married, your partner’s debt becomes your own.
According to website Pricenomics.com, the average age for newlyweds in the United States is 27.2 years for women and 28.7 years for men. By that time, many people have established careers, some have purchased automobiles, and others are living in their own apartments or homes. Many are also struggling to pay off student loans and credit card debt. If he or she is missing payments, not paying on time or unable to pay at all, their credit history is being adversely affected – and that means you might, too. If you jointly apply for credit you could be turned down, or perhaps not get the same, beneficial terms you could get have if you had applied alone.
So how do you know if your intended’s credit history is damaged, and what can you do about it?
Time to talk
Trisha M.* is a 28-year-old Michigan native who relocated to the Atlanta area for a job after college graduation. She and her now-fiancé Tommy S.*, 30-years-old, met on the job and began dating a year later. After three years, they got engaged this Thanksgiving.
According to Trisha, finances were not a big topic of conversation until recently. “When you embark on a life event like this, you have to start talking money.” That’s because, in addition to planning a wedding, they’re also faced with the prospect of paying off a large student loan. Trisha made a career change last year and scaled back her work hours to focus on completing a Master’s in Marketing in one year.
“We started talking about it and planning a year ago,” Trisha said. “I had to make a lot of sacrifices to make it work and even with that, we are still looking at a lot of debt to pay off before we get married in June.”
And that’s why they sat down and had “the conversation.” Because both are looking ahead to buying a home and starting a family, ordering their finances has become a priority. “It isn’t easy to talk money, but making sure both of us are on firm financial ground before we get married will help ensure there’s one less issue to worry about.”
Indeed, worrying about money and not communicating are key reasons behind some divorces. In a recent study conducted by Ameriprise Financial, Inc., they found that nearly seven out of 10 (68%) survey respondents who were in synch with their finances described communication over finances with their spouses/partners as “perfect” or “very good.”
In a 2015 study conducted by TD Bank, couples who regularly talked about money were happier in their relationships than those who discussed finances less frequently. Among respondents who said they talked about money at least once per week, 42 percent described their relationship as “extremely happy,” compared with 27 percent of those who talk about money less than once per month.
Interestingly, the same study showed that millennials like Trisha and Tommy do tend to talk more about money, but they also fight about it more, too. That’s not the case for them, Trisha assures. “We sat down this weekend and very calmly laid out a strategy to pay for our wedding before it takes place and then how we will tackle paying off my student debt. Our goal is to be debt free so we can start saving for a home together.”
Now that sounds like a plan.
* To respect their privacy, 2020 Credit did not use real names