It is the topic many Americans are afraid to bring up when getting to know someone. The subject that was rarely discussed perhaps in their household, and not covered in-depth in school. Yet, debt is the reason so many people end up splitting up in America. According to a survey by SelfLender from this summer, nearly 25% of people lie to their significant other about the level of debt they currently carry. People also wait until nearly six months of dating before discussing the topic of debt on average.
Financial infidelity is defined as the act of spending money, possessing credit and credit cards, holding secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt without the knowledge of one’s spouse, partner, or significant other. With finances being the number one cause of divorce in America, those still dating with hopes of marriage have to look out for the financial red flags from their partner regarding finances. Here are our top three.
Avoiding the subject
When you decide ultimately to have the discussion around debt and finances is a personal decision (however we suggest sit down prior to investing six months of your time), however when you do decide to engage in the talk, watch out for the little things. First, we suggest having this discussion in-person, at a time where you both are calm, and are not involved in any other relationship stressors or arguments. Notice your partners body language, and if they get agitated or defensive. If they begin to interrogate you on why you want to know how much debt they have, there may be something they are hiding. Being involved with someone with debt is a not a dealbreaker in itself, however if they are lying about the type of debt they have, or the amount of debt they have, then you are onto bigger problems.
What type is it?
All debt is not created equal. Someone who is an aspiring attorney, however is sitting with over $100,000 in student loan debt (and nothing else) could likely still be a great candidate for a relationship, assuming you two are on the same page about repayment of the loans upon marriage. If you are involved with someone who has $100,000 in credit card debt, and you are a saver by nature, you may experience stroke like symptoms at the thought of spending your way to a potential bankruptcy. Those frivolous financial decisions could be fundamental ideals that are deal-breakers for you two, as you both do not view money and the importance of your financial future in the same way.
The only thing worst than lying about debt is not disclosing everything. There are scores of stories on the internet, and via Youtube (you can normally hear a caller on The Dave Ramsey Show once a week with this scenario) who finds out their spouse has a credit card they are unaware of, or opened a loan that they forgot to disclose. When considering marriage and merging your finances and essentially your future, it is not a bad idea to sit down with a professional counselor to discuss the topic. With a third party in the room, they can assist in keeping the conversation on topic, and provide some thoughtful guidance for the two of you moving forward.
You may also want to consider sitting down and drafting a mock monthly budget before actually moving in together, to get in the habit of talking about debt/finances. Before you get that far, at some point while you are dating, reviewing each others credit score is a good idea. With many credit card issuers providing access to your FICO score at your fingertips, your partner likely has an app on their phone, where with pressing a few buttons they can show you their most recent score, and talk about why it is where it is.