If you have that giddy butterflies-in-the stomach feeling and everything else feels right and natural, there are plenty of things you’ll want to overlook when it comes to love. One of those is a bad credit score.
But if getting engaged or married is in your future, your partner’s credit score will affect your financial future. And so will a lot of other things about their financial life.
If you’re thinking of becoming more committed—whether that means tying the knot, cohabitating, or joining finances—it’s a good idea to have an honest talk about money. Here are three things you and your partner should both disclose.
Your credit score
It’s a common misconception that when you get married, your partner’s credit score automatically has an effect on yours. The truth is that your credit score doesn’t change when you get married or move in with someone.
However, your partner’s credit score will have an effect on your financial life. Lenders will take both your scores into account when you apply for loans together (think mortgages and car financing.)
If your partner’s score is bad, it could disqualify you for the best interest rates—or get you denied altogether. If you’re the one with the better credit score, it may be better to apply to loans individually.
The downside is that it makes you solely responsible for the loan—so if your partner decides not to pay their share, you’re the only one on the hook.
Your debt load
How much debt does your partner really have? That number will constrain your financial life together. Big life decisions such as buying a house, switching careers, having kids, and going back to school will all be affected by that debt.
You probably won't be held legally responsible for your partner's loans, though—even if you're married.
In most cases, you are not financially responsible for loans your significant other took out before marriage. Although, lenders could hold you responsible for a spouse’s loans if you live in a community property state.
When it comes to loans your spouse took out after marriage, the picture is a little more complicated. It depends on where you live, the situation, and sometimes the whims of the judge—if you’re in court over your loans.
If you’re not getting married, you most likely don’t have to worry about paying back your partner’s loans unless you cosign on one of their loans or take out a loan together.
However, their level of debt will have an impact on your financial life—and vice versa—whether you’re legally married or not. So it’s important to know the situation going in.
You might think it’s unlikely a couple could get so far as marriage without disclosing their income. But it’s not that unusual for people to keep their incomes secret—even to those closest to them.
People have strong, sometimes illogical feelings around money. And many feel shame about what they do or don’t make—and hold off on disclosing that information as long as they can.
But judgment aside, if you don’t have an accurate picture of what you make as a couple, you could easily find yourselves in financial trouble. If your partner’s financial life falls apart in the future, it could tank yours too—whether you’re legally married or not.
Even if you're not making a legal commitment, you could end up shouldering certain financial burdens if your partner isn't responsible with money. You don’t have to dump a great partner over a bad credit score—necessarily—but it’s crucial to get the full picture before you commit.
If you or your beloved want to get your student loan debt under control, consider refinancing to a lower interest rate. Find out if you’re Refi Ready.