Marriage and Credit:

Your Bad Credit History Could Be Caused by Spouse Debt

Manage Your Credit"I do." Those two little words have the potential to toss your good credit history into the dumps. Getting married links you and your spouse together in more ways than you might imagine. Marriage and credit require a little bit of extra care to make everything turn out happily ever after.

Many aspects of your personal credit aren't necessarily affected by marriage. When you get hitched to your spouse, debt doesn't suddenly change hands. Each spouse will retain his or her own credit history, and you'll each be responsible for paying your own bills unless you take specific actions that mingle your finances.

Opening joint accounts will expose your credit score to the effects of your spouse's credit history, but you have to specifically take action beyond saying "I do" for this to happen. Making major purchases that require financing, such as a home or car, can cause your spouse's debt management skills to affect your credit score.

Marriage and credit: Don't ask, don't tell?

Personal finances can be a touchy subject for couples considering marriage, but the "don't ask, don't tell" policy isn't a good way to deal with money matters in a marriage. Just ask Christy M.

When Christy got married, she assumed that her husband's financial past was pretty decent. After all, he had a good job, right? A few months after Christy's wedding, she went house-shopping with her husband. Bank after bank turned them down for financing. Christy was puzzled; her credit score was in the high 700s before she got married.

A quick check of her credit report showed a credit score in the high 500s, dangerous territory for home financing. John M., Christy's spouse, had declared bankruptcy a few years before because of medical debt, and he was carrying several credit cards close to their credit limits. Both factors pushed Christy's good credit rating down. In this case, hidden spouse debt prevented the couple from getting a home right away.

Christy discovered the hard way that if you don't ask your spouse about his or her credit history, you are likely to be unpleasantly surprised. Comparing your credit history with your future, potential spouse's isn't anyone's idea of a fabulous date, but it is the sign of a responsible adult who cares for a partner both emotionally and financially.

Being a responsible partner takes more effort than just paying the bills on time. You have to be open with your spouse about the state of your finances. Hiding spouse debt is a good way to wreck joint accounts and put unnecessary strain on your marriage. Before you say "I do," check your credit reports and have a frank discussion about your credit history.


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