"You don't want a money surprise.
You have to go in with your eyes wide open," says
Meg Green, a Certified Financial Planner in Miami.
if someone comes with a lot of debt, a lot of baggage?" she asks. "You
have to know that. It's going to be part of your life."
everything out in the open: What you make, what you owe, what you own, any savings
and investments you may have. It's also a good idea to swap credit reports.
While one spouse's premarriage debt or
credit dings won't affect another's credit rating, it
can hamper joint financial goals. For example, each
partner's credit history will be scrutinized when applying
for a mortgage together. All that debt left over from
those poor student days or that one wild summer in Europe
can't be hidden.
Once married, any joint credit accounts -- including those
for auto loans, credit cards and mortgages -- will show up on both spouses' credit
"One affects the other and there's no escape
from that," says Nancy Dunnan, author of "Your First Financial Steps:
Managing Your Money When You Are First Starting Out."
In community property states such as
Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico,
Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, all debts incurred
during the marriage are considered joint debts even
if a spouse applies for credit on his or her own. If
a husband defaults on an auto loan, for example, the
lending company can compel the wife to pay.
After assessing current debts, be sure to discuss individual and joint financial
priorities and goals. One financial goal may be paying off a student loan or credit
card debt. Will the other spouse pitch in?
Money and debt are
touchy subjects. Everyone has a different comfort level. Some people need a certain
amount of money socked away in savings to fall asleep at night. Others don't think
twice about shuffling big balances between credit cards.