Black Singles and Marriage: With This Debt, I Thee Wed

| 03/01/2012 | Comments (0)

If there is no financial plan in place to tackle the debt, then it is likely that conflict sets in immediately. In the cases where the indebted partners did not disclose their debt, the integrity of the relationship is deeply compromised. Many marriage counselors go as far as naming this withholding information about debt, ‘financial infidelity.’ So, what is the couple to build trust during this foundation build period of the marriage? There are ten sure-fire steps to build your marriage and get out of debt fast:

  1. Confess your debt to each other before you walk down the aisle. Make a list of creditors, account numbers, interest rates, and balances, and do not forget to include back taxes owed and that loan from grandma. It is better to get the whole truth out in the open sooner than later, preferably before you walk down the aisle. Promise each other not to judge or hold a grudge, as long as all things are disclosed up front.
  2. Once you are married, but not while engaged or dating, take the position that one partner’s debt is both of your debt. If you really committed to ‘death due us part,’ then a few years of sacrificing part of your paycheck toward your spouse’s debt, will only make your long-term financial life better. Avoid getting hung up on ‘his’ money versus ‘her’ money, and just work together to pay it off. True love keeps no record of wrongs or debts.
  3. List your combined debt in order from least to greatest, without regard to interest rates, and pay only the minimum balance on everything, but the lowest one. Pay as much as you can toward the lowest amount until the debt is gone, and then apply that payment to the next debt on your list. Dave Ramsey, host of a the nationally syndicated radio program discussing personal finance, calls this strategy the ‘snowball effect,’ because the amount you have to pay off the next debt grows dramatically each time you pay off a debt on the list. Additionally, every time you pay off a debt, you will experience a growth in self-efficacy related to money management, and you will gain motivation as your sense of accomplishment grows. A sense of combined accomplishment does wonders for your relationship and your level of intimacy.
  4. Get a financial grip by making and sticking to a budget. Check out Mint.com. Mint.com is the easiest and fastest way to collect all your account information in one place, and it even creates a budget for you based on your past spending history, which you can then adjust to suit your goals. The service is free! If putting all your account information online in one place scares you, then make a written budget, or use personal accounting software like quicken or others. If you do not know where you money goes, you will not be able to reduce your expenses.
  5. Agree to apply all windfalls, bonuses, and financial wedding gifts toward your combined debt, and stick with this plan until all the debt is gone.
  6. If you have trouble with spending in one area, such as restaurants, and you continually blow your budget, then allocate cash in envelopes to each partner, and agree to not spend anything else on restaurants when the cash runs out. Experts at Crown Financial and Dave Ramsey advise couples to run every line item on a cash-in-envelopes system; however, we find this becomes confusing, not to mention dangerous to carry so much cash, so only use this technique for the areas in which you are most challenged.
  7. Make a one date a week, just to talk about your success and support each other in reducing expenses. If your budget is out of sight, it will also be out-of-mind. Hold each other accountable, but agree to not criticize harshly or to fight.
  8. Create a mission statement for your marriage around causes that you are both passionate about, and agree to put a small amount of money and time toward this cause monthly. It sounds counter-intuitive to add something to the budget, but when you start to see the impact you can make together on the world around you, your spending priorities will automatically adjust themselves. For instance, if you volunteer at a local homeless shelter and donate $25 monthly to this same organization, you will think twice the next time you want to blow your entire budget at the five-star restaurant. You will start to see the world differently. Your five-star meal will represent a month of meals for a homeless person. In order for this to work-the mission has to be something that you both connect with deeply. This service to your community also gives you more time together, which builds intimacy.
  9. You may discover that there is a root cause to this spending that requires deeper or spiritual healing. No cash for a counselor? Seek out a sagacious advisor whom you trust, such as a pastor or rabbi. Never underestimate the power and value of good counsel!
  10. Reward yourselves in small ways every time you scratch another creditor off the list of debts. Allow these rewards to grow with each new pay-off date. For example, if you have ten debts listed, and your first one is paid off in two months, take a little date to the expensive ice cream store and splurge on calories together. By the time you reach the tenth item on the list, you will have celebrated many milestones together, which builds mutual respect and a sense of teamwork into the foundation of your marriage.

Respect and teamwork built early on may be the fuel that carries you through bumpy roads together later on in the marriage.

 

About the Author

Robbye Schroeder is a wife, mother, and recovering spend-a-holic. Drawing on her copywriting background for the financial services industry, she distills complex lingo into manageable action steps towards a ‘revised version of the American Dream,’ which includes the pursuit of successful life-long marriage. Robbye is passionate about helping newlyweds gain tools to avoid potholes on the path to marital bliss. Find out more at http://www.themarriagepurse.com/.

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