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Tips to Manage Joint Finances After Marriage

Married someone with debt?

Marriage - it means spending the rest of your life with your true love. But one thing you might not love is tying the knot to your spouse’s debt.

In fact, CNBC cited research that found 35 percent of people named money as the primary trouble spot with their partner. Debt and money concerns have even caused some couples to delay getting married.

So, what can you do if you or your spouse has brought some financial baggage to your marriage? Try these tips to manage your combined debt.

Communication is key

A study by Ramsey Solutions found that 86 percent of couples who got married in the last five years started out in debt. It also found that couples who fight about money had about $30,000 on average in consumer debt.

Using advice you might have heard at your wedding—communication is key—also applies to your household finances and debt. Budget guru Dave Ramsey recommends couples regularly talk with each other about money goals and dreams.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Ramsey also suggests that married couples shouldn’t hide purchases from each other. While you might both be on the same page with where you want your finances to be, it doesn’t make sense if the lines of communication break down at the checkout line—in-store or online.

Have a plan for student loans

Student loan debt has many Millennials rethinking their marriage plans. According to an article by, national student debt in the U.S. currently stands at $1.4 trillion. But student loans don’t have to be a barrier to building a family—if you have a plan.

Just like communicating, creating a plan (and sticking to it) is one of the best ways to manage your student loan debt in a marriage. As suggests, it takes taking an honest look at your options, such as:

  • Deferment for subsidized loans
  • Enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan

Other than a mortgage, student loans will likely be your biggest contributor to debt early in your marriage. Communicate and make a plan. If you have to make adjustments later, do so together and understand what you want the outcome to be.

Take baby steps to pay down and save for the future

It’s more than just student loans that need a plan—consolidating your debt so you can save for the future is another way to keep your marriage debt in order.

First, understand if you have too much debt. Figure out your debt-to-income ratio which shows how much you owe versus how much you bring home in income. Ideally, you’d want that percentage to be less than 15% (not including mortgage or student loans). From there, you might have debt consolidation options like:

  • A secured or unsecured loan
  • Home equity loan
  • Debt Snowball Method—paying down small balances first to gain momentum

Taking baby steps like this, as well as setting aside cash in an emergency fund, helps you make progress in attacking your debt without breaking the bank.

Bottom Line

It’s possible to say “I do” to your spouse without having to spend a lifetime with their debt. Collaborate to make a plan and take small steps to keep the momentum going.

If you’ve got questions about how to manage your finances as a couple, schedule time to have a conversation with United Federal Credit Union.