Getting married is a big decision and for many young people represents a major step towards starting their lives as independent adults. For many this means shifting the focus from school to career and starting to make plans with their soon-to-be-spouse about what they would like the future to hold.
Financial experts say that with a record amount of student debt and a slowly improving economy, members of the millennial generation have some unique financial challenges in their path that makes the road from college to their first home less smooth than the one their parents traveled. As a result, it is more important than ever for young people who are planning to get married to make a comprehensive financial plan before they walk down the aisle.
Often these plans can become a part of a prenuptial agreement in which a couple decides what will be theirs as a couple and what will remain separate, both in the present and going forward. Setting these expectations and putting them into writing can help foster a larger conversation on how to manage individual debts and how to go about acquiring joint debts, whether that is a mortgage or a household credit card. Experts advise young people to disclose all of their potential financial pitfalls during the early stages of planning in order to avoid conflict down the road and to allow the couple to make the best possible decisions. For example, if one spouse has significant debt and the other does not but they both contribute to payments, who will be responsible for the remaining balance in the event of a divorce? And what happens to the amount already paid in to the debt by the spouse who did not accrue it? These are important questions to answer and while the law has some guidance for these issues, it is often best for individuals to make their own provisions.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Financial Issues to Discuss Before You Get Married,” Daniel Lippman, Sept. 29, 2013.