This is a paid post written by me on behalf of Discover Personal Loans. All opinions are my own.
As a finance major in college, I was supposed to have it all together.
But, I had a little secret.
Even though I was studying the intricacies of the financial markets in college, I had credit card debt and student loan debt.
My student loan debt was especially troubling since the Army National Guard paid 90 percent of my college bills! How did this happen?
Unfortunately, all my debts were the result of poor planning and, most of all, poor choices.
I can’t remember how the topic came up, but I knew I had to share these details with my girlfriend at the time.
While we weren’t married, I knew that she was the one. And since she came from a family who didn’t believe in owing money or carrying debt, I knew she needed to know.
One night, Mandy asked a simple question, “How much debt do you have?”
What’s funny is, I don’t think I realized how big my problem was until she asked. Until that moment, I had never really added it up.
When I had to say the number out loud, it felt like a lot.
“I owe around $15,000 on credit cards,” I told her.
I’ll never forget the way Mandy reacted when I shared my debt secret with her. Her eyes grew wider and I could tell she was in shock.
I worried that she would question her feelings for me or worry about our future. Still, I knew telling her about my debt was the right thing to do.
Fortunately, Mandy didn’t hold it against me and stood by me while I paid off my credit card debt for good. And, that’s exactly what I did. One dollar at a time, I paid off my credit card bills and student loans and vowed to never get into debt again.
Why Confessing Debt to Your Partner is Important
Even though Mandy and I have been married forever, I still look back on our early years of dating and marvel at how far we’ve come. While my debt problem wasn’t ideal, it was actually a blessing in disguise – and a great learning experience.
While the debt I carried was a huge problem, we both learned that honesty can help you overcome any obstacle. We also learned that, if you want to solve a problem, you have to acknowledge it first.
Until Mandy and I had the “debt talk,” I had never taken the time to look closely at my situation. But once everything was out in the open, I felt emboldened to turn my situation around.
Unfortunately, many people with debt never see such a happy ending. Recently, we watched some of our close friends divorce after nine years of marriage. The biggest reasons, I suspect? We know one spouse was struggling with money and hiding their debt from the other.
If these friends had been honest from the start, they may have been able to keep their family together. Instead, one spouse let their debts develop into a web of lies. By the time everything was out in the open between them, it seemed too late to work it out.
Here are a few key reasons confessing your debt is so important:
Marriage requires a financial commitment.
Marriage is about love and family, but it’s also about commitment. The thing is, the word “commitment” extends well beyond agreeing to love your spouse “for rich and for poor.” Obviously, marriage is a financial commitment as well.
It’s impossible to commit fully and completely to someone when you’re not sharing an intimate detail of your life – your debt. To start your marriage off on the right foot, you have to make a full commitment to your partner and your collective well-being. Since you can’t really commit without full disclosure, confessing your debts to your partner is crucial.
If you plan to be together forever, you have to plan for forever. Part of that planning includes taking stock of where you’re at financially no matter how bad it feels.
You can overcome debt if you work together.
A lot of people with debt never confront it because they don’t really know what to do next. When I told Mandy I owed $15,000, you better believe I was mortified and worried how things would pan out.
The thing is, nearly anyone can overcome their debts if they put their mind to it. Even if you’re struggling with high interest credit debt or student loans like I was (and many students do), there are financial tools that can help.
Let’s say you have credit card debt. Together with your partner, you could weigh the pros and cons of taking out a debt consolidation loan that could help you save money on interest and pay down debt faster. Personal, or debt consolidation loans, consolidate several of your debts and provide the funds to pay these with one payment, at lower-interest rate than credit cards. Discover Personal Loans is one lender that will even pay your creditors directly.
Obviously, you’ll want to look for a loan that has the following:
- No origination fees
- No pre-payment fees
- Multiple repayment terms to choose from
Have student loan debt? You can also consider refinancing those loans into a new loan product with a lower interest rate and better terms. With a better loan, you may be able to pay down debt faster so you can start living the life you truly want.
Having the “debt talk” early can prevent money troubles down the line.
As a financial planner, I’ve watched many couples who never talked about money struggle to find common ground later on. For some reason, plenty of young people I know tie the knot without talking about debt or their financial goals.
By having the “debt talk” and the “money talk” early, you can get on the same page as your partner – or at least try. By talking through your money issues together, you can learn each other’s financial philosophies inside and out.
Maybe one of you is a spender and the other is a saver. While you might struggle with these conflicting money management roles over time, it’s best to know this upfront!
Remember our friends who divorced after nine years with financial and debt troubles? I like to imagine their lives could be different if they had talked through all their money issues early on.
Learn to “dream together.”
Marriage is never perfect, and we all endure our share of struggles. But, as a financial advisor, I have noticed that couples who learn to map out their futures together – to dream together – tend to be better off.
When I sit down with a couple as their financial advisor, I try to impart the concept of “dreaming together” by having them plan out their short-term and long-term goals. When a couple sits down to map out where they want to be in three, five, or even 10 years, it promotes a closeness that’s good for the soul.
By talking openly and honestly about money, couples are able to plan a future they are both excited about.
Of course, this isn’t possible if you’re not honest about money from the beginning!
The bottom line: Confessing your debts is the first step to paying them off and building the life of your dreams. But, it all starts with that first step – confronting your financial situation head on.