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Debt May Spoil Cupid’s Plans This Valentine’s Day

Cupid is up against a mighty opponent this Valentine’s Day: debt. The majority of respondents participating in the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) monthly poll, of which Apprisen is a member, indicated they would have serious reservations about taking on the debt of the person they love, even to the point of ending the relationship.

Fifty-four percent of respondents would either not marry until the debt was repaid (37%), marry but not help pay the debt (10%), or end the relationship (7%). The remaining 46 percent of those who weighed in were willing to marry and jointly pay off the debt.  

When considering the negative ramifications of debt, people may not realize that the associated problems can go beyond credit scores and interest rates. Debt can also have serious, long-lasting personal implications,” said Jana Castanon, spokesperson for Apprisen. “It appears that debt overrides love, at least temporarily, when deciding to move forward in a relationship. It’s money over marriage.”  

The fact that debt can give a person second thoughts about continuing a relationship may be particularly true with young adults who emerge from college with tens of thousands of dollars in credit card and student loan debt. If two millennials with similar debt obligations marry, they could begin their happily ever after with a six-figure debt load. Close to half of all marriages in America end in divorce, with financial strain often cited as the culprit. Therefore, it is no surprise that people are reluctant to start off on the wrong financial foot.

Due to the potential negative impact debt can have on a credit report and score, it may also be difficult to buy a home or car, rent an apartment, obtain insurance or land a job, all common steps people take when building a life together. 

However, lovebirds need to be aware that credit reports and scores are for individuals, not couples. A marriage license may join two people together in matrimony, but their credit remains separate. The game changes, however, if accounts are opened jointly with each person a co-applicant. People often apply for credit jointly when making a major purchase that requires two sources of income to support the loan. In this case, one person’s low credit score may hinder the approval, or if the lender extends credit, it may be at a higher interest rate.

Further, if two people marry, one with good credit and one with iffy credit, there is a way to legitimately improve the credit of the not-so-fortunate party. Adding a person onto an account as an authorized user allows the credit history to be reported in both the authorized user’s name and the primary account holder’s name. Over time, with the credit handled responsibly, this will positively impact both credit reports. 

Love and money cannot be separated. Financial decisions are made each day in a marriage. For that reason, it is important that couples communicate openly about their finances, are willing to sharing all sources of income, debt obligations, credit reports and scores. A discussion would also need to be had regarding personal preferences about loaning money to family and friends and attitudes toward spending and saving. Financial baggage can be heavy, but settling differences before walking down the aisle will go a long way toward making happily ever after a reality.

The NFCC January poll question and results are as follows:

If the person I loved had a large amount of debt, I would

A. Not marry until the debt was paid = 37% 
B. Marry and pay it off together = 46% 
C. Marry, but not help pay the debt = 10%
D. End the relationship = 7% 

Note: The NFCC’s January Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC website (www.DebtAdvice.org) from January 1–31, 2014, and was answered by 2,170 individuals. 

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Apprisen, a national nonprofit credit counseling agency, has been helping consumers manage their finances and get out of debt for almost 60 years






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