NEW YORK (
) -- Getting married isn't just a union based on love, but one often beset by at least one partner's financial troubles.
Before you stand at the altar, it is important to know where youstand financially as a couple. You aren't just joining together your hopesand dreams, but also combining your money habits, spending patterns andeven past debt.
As both the average marriage age and student debt loads rise, it is likelyat least one partner will enter the marriage with significant debt. The averagestudent loan debt is now more than $25,000, and the average credit card debtis almost $5,000 per borrower. These debts can cause significant stress on anew marriage. Revealing all debts early can ease the stress, and help thenew couple start paying it down as soon as possible.
Getting married does not automatically make you responsible for debtsincurred by your spouse before the marriage. Your partner's debt will onlyshow up on your credit history once you are added to the accounts. However,the debt will still affect you when it comes to your household's incomesince there will be a lot less money to save, pay other bills or spend inways that are much more enjoyable than debt payments.
Here are 10 financial tips for newlyweds:
Compare spending habits.
Don't assume your spouse shares your beliefsabout money--the spending and saving habits may surprise you. Watch howthey use money. A free spender before marriage will probably be a freespender after marriage.
Before the wedding, reveal everything in your financial closet.
Be honest about your income, debts, and money problems. Bring out your bank statements from the past twelve months to show what you did with your money. Discuss your strengths and weaknesses with money.
Each of you should get a copy of your credit reports from the three creditbureaus.
This will give you a clear picture of credit accounts, debts, and how creditors will judge you. Aim to get your scores over 750 to receive the lowest interest rates for your first mortgage and other loans.
If your partner has been married before, find out about their financialobligations to the ex-spouse and children.
Have a wedding and honeymoon you can pay off in a year.
The wedding of your dreams can become a nightmare if you are still paying interest on it years later.
Avoid credit card debt.
The best rule of thumb is simply, "if you can't pay for something with cash, you can't afford it."
If you have a credit card balance, pay as much as you can above theminimum each month.
If you receive gift money, a bonus, a second job or a tax refund, use this to pay off your debt. You can even make micropayments multiple times during the month to pay off your balance faster. Eat a meal at home and immediately apply the money you saved to your credit card balance.
Before the first bills come in, decide who will pay them and when thiswill take place.
If you have separate accounts, know which account pays each bill. Also notify creditors of your name change and new address.
Reduce your debt-to-available credit ratio.
This will help improve your credit score. Your monthly debt, including your mortgage, should not exceed 35% of your gross income.
Each spouse should have a credit card in his or her own name to build an individual credit score.
Keep that card for a long time. Use the card for several purchases each month and pay the bill in full immediately. Building a long term payment history with one or two credit cards is an important factor in your credit score.
--By Bill Hardekopf
Bill Hardekopf is chief executive of LowCards.com, which compares and rates more than 1,000 credit cards. He is the co-author of "The Credit Card Guidebook."