I’m Getting Married But My Fiancee and I Don’t Seem to Be Money Compatible. – Sarah

“Dear Steve,

I am 27 years old and engaged. I spent significant money to fix up my house so I could sell it and move where my fiancee got a job. I also bought a new mattress in January 2008, consulting with the fiancee. I now owe (been paying stuff for a while) $4500 from the house repairs (house did sell though!) and $2300 on the mattress. I also have $15000 in student loans and $12000 in a car loan

My fiancee is debt free and has been very vocal about this. He had told me he would start helping me on the mattress and his version is now that we are together he has sent 1 payment total – although he may send another one next month? I feel that I would not have the remaining house debt if I had not had to sell the house in poor market and finance a move two state away.

We started a financial class and the first thing he tells me as we leave is that he felt silly because he is the only person who has no debt – translation he doesn’t consider any part of my debt (not even the mattress) to be a shared responsibility.

The wedding is 5 weeks away (we have paid cash for this) and we had planned to start setting up joint accounts, etc after the wedding.

I think since he does not feel responsible, then we should just keep separate until the debt he doesn’t want to pay is gone (which would be all of it). However I know this will only cause me to resent him as I had no unsecured debt prior to our deciding to purchase the mattress and then selling my home.

I’m concerned about fully joinging everything because neither of us wants to give up control regarding finances.

How/when should we combine finances?


Dear Sarah,

Congratulations on finding the love of your life and on the upcoming wedding.

I know you are a bit stressed about all of this right now, but let me know how you are feeling after you read what I have to say.

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In relationships it seems like savers attract spenders. Your future husband sounds like he has exercised great self-control at avoiding financial liability but in fact, he has simply shifted it to you.

Situations like yours can be overcome but unless you address it, it will fester and become a source of future contention. Sarah, the key here is going to be communication.

You sound like you are making all the right decisions. I applaud your taking the financial class but his comments as you walk out of class just reinforce my feeling that he does not see that he has a joint debt with you for these items.

He needs to understand that as husband and wife, joined in marriage, you will have joint responsibilities and obligations. This is probably a good time to address these issues even though the wedding day has not arrived just yet.

Rather than giving up individual control, you need to help him understand that what you want to achieve is joint control. You want the two of you to actively participate in managing your finances and to both be aware of where you stand.

I would suggest that you start out proposing a friendly meeting where you each pull your consolidated credit report and sit down and read them together. Then swap them so you can read each others credit report. This consolidated credit report is the one I like the best and use.

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The credit report review will give you both a background understanding about what credit history you are bringing into the marriage. This will be the best point to discuss that you are also bringing into the marriage these recent debts, the student loan and the car payment.

I know that some people feel that couples should keep separate finances, but I don’t. I think that just creates the fertile medium for financial secrets and I don’t like that.

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I also think that if two people want to get married under law, roll around in the sack, swap bodily fluids and potentially create a baby together, then they need to be adult enough to manage their finances together as well.

Does that mean that at some point in the future you won’t get divorced or have marital problems? Absolutely not. But those problems are going to be over other things.

Sarah, you need to sit the lad down and do this right away. You need to have this conversation with him as soon as possible so you feel comfortable, compatible and treated fairly before you get married.

After you get married and combine joint accounts, maybe set one day a month as the day the two of you will sit down together and look at the bank account, bills and investments. Information creates power and communication eliminates secrets.

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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