12 debt questions to ask before getting married
'I owe' discussion should precede the 'I do'
By Adrienne Samuels-Gibbs
Before you say, "I do," you should get to know each other's financial health, and nothing says it better than your credit report.
"The credit report reflects how a person manages money. If their credit report is a lot different from yours, it probably means you have a lot of financial compatibility issues," says Mike Sullivan, director of education for Take Charge America, a Phoenix-based, nonprofit financial education and consumer debt service organization.
Here are the top 12 questions you need to ask your betrothed that can help make your future life together a successful one:
- How many credit cards do you have?
- What are the balances and interest rates on each of those cards?
- Do you pay your bills ahead of time, on the due date or late?
- Are there dings on your credit history that might affect our ability to reach our financial goals?
- What is your credit score?
- Can I see your credit report?
- Do you have any regular "guilty pleasures" (like buying Coach purses, gambling or Xbox games) that I need to know about?
- What are our financial goals (salary and saving expectations, retirement plans, future education, etc.)
- Do you have any assets (real estate, investments, retirement funds, savings accounts)?
- Do you want children? If so, what are your (our) financial plans for supporting them?
- Do you owe any debt from a previous marriage? Are there any financial obligations that still need to be fulfilled to your ex-spouse?
- How do you expect us to support your children financially from a previous marriage or relationship?
There are no correct answers to any of those questions. However, if your spouse doesn't want to chat with you about finances, consider this a big red flag. If you learn that there is a large amount of credit card debt, extremely high interest rates on those cards or too many credit cards, then you may want to consult with a financial adviser or a credit counselor. If you learn that there are children from a previous marriage who will need college financing or that your spouse has never thought about saving for retirement, you may want a financial adviser to create a savings plan.
See related: Don't say 'I do" to bad credit
Published: July 9, 2008
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