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10 Reasons Not to Get Married While You’re In Debt

10 Reasons Not to Get Married While You’re In Debt

Love. Pure, unabashed, crazy love. It makes people want to do courageous and life-altering things.

Like get married.

For many, there is nothing better than having a best friend and life partner. Unfortunately, for at least half the world’s married population, marriage won’t last forever. The issues leading to divorce are varied and complex.

I can tell you one thing, in my experience as a Phoenix divorce attorney, by far, the top reason leading to divorce is stress over money.

If you want to get married and stay married, talk with your significant other about money before you walk down the aisle. If you or your partner is saddled with a mountain of debt, consider NOT getting married just yet. Here’s why:

1. The best way to start a marriage is “fresh.”

No, we don’t live in a perfect world. Yes, there is some debt that is “good” debt (maybe like student loan debt), and yes, there is some debt that might not be paid off until you are on your deathbed (like student loan debt). Before getting married, talk with your partner about the debt that you each have, whether that debt is “good” or “bad” and whether you should put a wedding on hold until you pay all, some or most of it off.

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Entering into a marriage with a boatload of already existing “bad” debt is overwhelming. Instead of focusing on your financial future together, your energy will be spent figuring out how to manage money messes created in “another life.”

2. You want to have resources available when emergency strikes.

Have you ever been in a situation where just as you were getting ahead financially, your car died and you had to pay for expensive repairs? Yep. Thought so. We’ve all been there.

Already having a mountain of debt could affect your ability to get an emergency loan for that car or roof repair. In other words, if you are forced to pay your mechanic for an engine overhaul instead of paying the Best Buy credit card bill, you can bet your bottom dollar one thing will happen:

Stress and tension in the marriage will go through the roof when the bill collectors start a ringin’.

3. Being in debt could be a sign of a deeper, emotional issue.

Just like alcoholism, spending can be an addiction. A spending “problem” doesn’t mean a person isn’t “good.” It could, however, mean a person is satisfying an emotional need by heading to the casino with credit cards in hand every weekend. As with any other addiction, the one with the “problem” has to acknowledge the “problem” to begin the recovery process. The failure to admit a problem while single-handedly causing the financial destruction of your relationship or your partner’s credit will certainly doom the marriage.

4. The excessive debt of one party could be a sign that you don’t share the same values.

When you are feeling that crazy high you get from being in love, you might overlook something big: similar values over spending and money.

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You and your partner are different people. You can learn from each other. However, before tying the knot, have a frank discussion over your respective spending philosophies, how you will spend as a couple, and what your financial goals are for the relationship.

Doing this before getting married will either get you more into alignment on finances…or not. Either way, you will be walking into a marriage with open eyes over the spending values of your partner. That will put you one step ahead of many couples.

5. A large amount of debt can be an obstacle when trying to buy a house, car, or major shared purchase.

People get married to build a life together. Most individuals believe that with a partner, they can build something bigger and greater than they could alone. Imagine the shock and disappointment that will happen when one person learns they (the couple) can’t qualify for a home loan because of the high debt-to-income ratio of one spouse.

When you and your partner are talking about your mutual financial future, consider whether debt already exists and whether being in debt could affect the realization of your shared financial dreams.

6. In many places in the United States, a partner is “on the hook” for the spending of the spouse whether the partner knew about the spending or not.

Regardless of whether the spending is caused by a lack of shared financial values or an addiction, debt could plague both parties during the marriage and after the marriage is over. Depending on the laws of your state, if your partner made it a habit to max out credit cards for designer handbags or trips to the spa, in the event of divorce, you could be on the hook for paying some of that debt back…even if you had no idea it was happening!

The fact that you or your partner has racked up significant debt when you are dating could be a clue that a problem exists and needs to be addressed.

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7. If your spouse has children from another relationship, back child support debt could lead to the examination of YOUR finances.

A person might be the best parent on the planet. That same person could have a gigantic judgment against him or her for child support arrearages. Depending on your jurisdiction, the failure to pay child support without a good reason could lead to serious penalties (which could include incarceration).

In evaluating the reasons for the failure to pay child support, a court will want to examine a person’s whole financial picture. This picture could include the standard of living as evidenced by joint bank account statements and joint tax returns. This will likely make one spouse feel exposed, violated and stressed out, things which are not good for the overall health of the relationship.

8. If you and your spouse plan to start a family, prepare for large chunks of money to begin leaving your bank account immediately.

Before a woman gives birth, she can bet her bottom dollar that her OB/GYN will want a guarantee of payment (or payment in full) for the delivery before it happens. Even if you have insurance and are responsible for a small portion of the whole cost of the birth, your out-of-pocket expense could still be thousands of dollars. In the months and weeks after the birth, expect to receive bills from other medical providers for blood tests, hearing tests, and various unexpected types of tests.

This is just the beginning!

Before getting married and having kids, deal with payment of that Visa bill so you can devote all your resources to the birth and care of your children. When the kids come, that is what you’ll want. That is what they’ll deserve.

9. Borrowing money to pay debt down during marriage could negatively affect important relationships.

In cases when disaster does strike during marriage and people aren’t able to make ends meet because of unpaid debt, they turn to family and friends. If a family member or friend is not able to help by giving a loan, this could cause tension in the relationship, especially if either side harbors resentment over the loan request or the failure to lend.

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If the friend or family member does lend the money, bad feelings happen when the money isn’t paid back in the time period promised (or at all). What inevitably results from a broken promise to pay will be a damaged relationship with one or some of the most important people in your lives.

This could lead to isolation, depression and general unhappiness, all of which will affect your relationship with your partner.

10. If you are planning a special wedding ceremony, prepare to accumulate more debt.

The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is over $25,000. Some people are lucky enough to have parents who will foot the entire bill. Other couples pay for their weddings themselves.

If you and your partner are “on your own,” no matter how small you keep it, things will get pricey. The wedding industry is profitable for those in it and much to your surprise, you could be charged extra for something as simple as the type of chair you want your guests to sit in at the reception. If you plan to have a formal to-do for your once in a lifetime event, reduce the stress by paying down the existing debt first.

If you do decide to say “I do”, do you want your marriage to survive? If so, make a choice to be proactive about your debt and money situation with your soon-to-be spouse. By heading these issues off at the pass, you increase the chances that you and your partner will live a long, happy and financially secure future…together!

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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