Ask Money

Merge finances now–or later

Chris Farrell Jan 7, 2011

Question: I respect the questions/answers related to finding out about any debt your future spouse has prior to marriage, doing a credit report, having open conversation, etc. We’ve done all that. He has a bankruptcy from 2004 and some bad debt on his credit report. Together, we sat down and worked on which to pay back first. College tuition from 1st marriage child is also around the corner. And then, the wedding! We’re older (42 and 49) and don’t want to wait to get married, so please don’t suggest this. However, the debt will not all be paid off prior to the wedding. Do you suggest combining resources now (7 months prior to wedding) to knock out as much as possible? I guess my question really is,…it’s all out on the table,…and I love him for who he is ANYWAY…so now what? Cheryl, Atlanta, GA

Answer: You love each other.That’s wonderful. The two of you have talked over finances and the money issues and history are all on the table. Excellent. You’re getting married in 7 months. Congratulations.

And I would wait until marriage to merge finances.

I’m not trying to be a Scrooge or discouraging. The two of you are going into this relationship with your eyes open. But I am being cautiously realistic.

Fact is, 7 months isn’t that long a period of time. I would continue to figure out and talk over what your financial priorities will be as a couple once you’re married, from meeting college tuition payments to paying down debt to building up savings. But I wouldn’t mingle finances until after marriage. There are all kinds of legal protections that kick in once there is a marriage certificate.

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