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How to handle a future spouse's debt

When thinking about marriage, it may seem uncomfortable to bring up money. A person's finances, however, are an important part of life and something to consider when merging two households. Going into a marriage with debt looming can put a damper on the big day, but a little preemptive planning can help make the transition easier.

Unlike older generations, who learned how to save during the Great Depression, those coming of age now have experienced the Great Recession. We live in a culture of debt, and many 20-somethings live with the expectation of debt and bankruptcy. When two young people are in the process of getting married, they should consider how their future spouse's debt and spending habits will affect their new life together.

If one person in a couple went through bankruptcy before the marriage, it will not affect the second spouse filing for bankruptcy after the marriage if they need to. If each person keeps their accounts separate, their bankruptcy will not affect the other.

However, if one half of a couple is financially irresponsible, that could lead to a lifetime of headaches for the other if they have joint accounts. Being married means being able to plan for the future together. If one spouse is spending money that the couple doesn't have, that will create conflict.

Couples who are concerned about their future financial life together should attend financial counseling together. While it may not be the most fun a couple can have, it is an important part of learning to live together and get a financial partnership off to a good start.

Source: Fox Business, "Do You Marry Someone Who Has Big Debt?" CreditCards.com, Jan. 24, 2012

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