You finally found your soul mate -- someone who is sympathetic, nurturing, loving and caring. You're ready to tie the knot. But before you say, "I do," can you honestly say, "We did?" No, I'm not talking about that. I am talking about the talk. Not the one about sex and family but rather the one about money and credit.
Buzzkill? Reality testing? Yes. However, you both need to talk about:
The sooner both of you discuss your personal financial preferences, credit standings, individual spending habits and joint future goals, the sooner you can identify and hopefully avoid major problems.
Most people recognize that money and sex are two major potholes that can trip up happily married couples and lead to a rocky road of conflict, distress and disputation. And, as you are now a couple, it's good to get into the habit of joint problem solving and negotiating so you can set the stage for a sustaining dialogue that fuels togetherness and intelligent conflict resolution.
Fact: The longer you can avoid plunging into debt and all of the traps that come with achieving instant gratification and overspending, the better you'll be prepared as a couple to save for the things you want, get ready for little bundles of joy, and build your retirement nest egg. In addition to the size of your investment accounts, the health of your credit is paramount.
Unfortunately, many couples enter a marriage with credit baggage. Like a suitcase that is so stuffed all of the clothes can't be jammed into it, one spouse and sometimes both may have overspent in their previous lives, racked up significant debt and made mistakes that severely damaged their credit. While one partner's bad credit score won't damage the score of the other, it could inhibit their ability to jointly purchase a home or a car at an affordable price, and must be addressed as early in the relationship as possible.
There is no substitute for talking things out. You're a couple now and everything you do from here on in should be done as two-some, a partnership, and a marriage. Don't hold back, don't fudge, don't mislead and, of course, never lie. Be straight, get everything out in the open, and reach an agreement in principle about how you plan on straightening out any bad debt from the past, cleaning up any credit issues, and establishing a positive joint profile and track record for the future.
Stanley Kubrick once directed a film entitled "Eyes Wide Shut," but in this case, eyes wide open is the operative way to behave. Be open with your spouse; learn to talk things out. Collaborate on establishing positive joint credit, fixing any problems of the past, and embarking on a new sterling financial record. This will lead to material happiness and emotional health as well.
Adam Levin is chairman and cofounder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.