Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, September 20, 2010

Couples, Disclose Your Financial Debt!

Last week, I appeared on The Early Show on CBS, discussing how debt can impact your romantic relationship. The story, which aired last Friday, was important in that it raised an issue that couples often avoid: discussing debt.

When you get to the point in a relationship where you are making long-term plans - moving in together, getting married, or having children - you need to discuss the financial debt that each of you has so that you can consider and plan for the multiple ways that debt is going to affect your lives. Though it's often an uncomfortable issue to discuss, you must handle the issue as an adult if you are going to have a real, grown-up relationship.

First, know the precise details of your financial debt: the amount, repayment plans, and so on. Second, ask your romantic partner about the debt that he or she will be bringing into the relationship. As a couple, you are going to have to work as a team to pay down your combined debt, and you are going to need to communicate clearly and often as you pay off that debt.

The good news is that all of the burden doesn't have to begin and end with the two of you. The reality is that financial planning involves a set of skills that we all must learn. If you are considering getting married, for example, the fact that you will be inheriting the debt your partner has makes it crucial to develop good skills in budgeting and financial planning. If you are making such plans, contact your bank and ask if there is a financial planner you can sit down with and map out a repayment plan that is realistic for the two of you.

Finally, a trip to the book store will provide extra assistance. You will find a wide selection of books that can help you become a smarter money manager. If you and your partner can rise to the challenge, paying down your debt together can turn you into a real team, and your relationship can become stronger as a result.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Seth, this is an excellent point.

I'd take this even further and say that if you have consumer debts (as opposed to, say, college or real estate related debts), I think it's fair to disclose this early in the dating proceedings. Earlier than you think.

These posts are exactly why I religiously follow this blog.