Money is a major issue for many married couples especially when it comes to student loans or credit card debt.
First and foremost, it's essential that couples talk about their finances before getting married. Being clear and honest is important, as debt can affect a couple's ability to buy a home, retire and live comfortably.
Depending on how married couples combine accounts, manage income and file taxes, the nature of debt obligations can change when a single person gets married. There are many options, incentives and programs that can help couples deal with debt and make smart decisions with their money.
Joint Taxes or Separate
Married couples filing jointly can receive tax breaks, credits and deductions. The money saved is a strong incentive for filing jointly, though some couples may want to file separately if they want to itemize.
The best strategy for filing depends on each financial situation, including debt type, income and tax itemizing. There are calculation services to help couples determine which option is best, according to Consumer Reports.
Income-Based Debt Payments
If debt payments (student debt in particular) are calculated based on income, filing jointly can increase payments as a dual-income couple will increase total income. On the other hand, if both partners have debts, when those debts combine, payments can potentially go down if the ratio of shared debt to shared income changes.
Common Law vs. Common Property
Depending on the state one lives in, new debt can be counted individually or will be considered jointly, according to Investopedia.
In a common law state, if an individual owns something, it belongs to the individual. Property can be owned jointly, but generally the name on the title means that person owns that property. This is the more common system.
Common property states share debt and assets between the married couple. If one accrues debt or property while married, it is shared jointly. Debt or assets from before marriage still stay with the individual. This affects debt responsibility, particularly if a marriage ends.
Avoid New Sources of Debt
Credit cards should be paid off every month. If this is an issue, consider making a budget to cut back on unnecessary spending.
Investopedia notes that avoiding debt can start with the wedding itself. Rings and ceremonies can cost a lot. Spending large amounts or going into debt for a wedding is not a sound decision for many new couples.
Prioritize High Interest Loans
High interest rates mean that the longer a debt is outstanding, the more money the person in debt will have to pay. Debt.org and other sources recommend paying these debts as quickly as possible. With less money going to pay off interest, more money can be put toward the debts themselves.
If debts are piling up, it may be possible to combine them into one debt with one interest rate, which will save money over time. According to Debt.org, debt consolidation helps people with many debts, due dates and interest payments by putting everything in one place. This simplifies the payment process and cuts costs.
There are two primary options for debt consolidation, one is to enter a payment plan with a bank, the other is to convert the outstanding debts into a single loan which is then paid off over time.
Let the Professionals Help
It's never too late to start fighting debt. There are many options for couples' finances, at all stages of marriage or marriage planning. Since taxes, programs, banks and payment plans can feel overwhelming, consulting financial experts is an ideal place to start.
If you are burdened with high amounts of credit card debt and are struggling to make your payments, or you’re just not seeing your balances go down, call Timberline Financial today for a free financial analysis.
Our team of highly skilled professionals will evaluate your current situation to see if you may qualify for one of our debt relief programs. You don’t have to struggle with high-interest credit card debt any longer.