First Person: My Husband Wouldn't Marry Me Until I Got Out of Debt

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My husband proposed, but wouldn't set a wedding date until I got out of debt. Even though it was frustrating to have to wait to get married, I was glad we started our new life together without the burden of my credit card debt. I was "allowed" to bring my car loan into the marriage since he didn't have a car loan of his own. Looking back, I realize that being forced to become disciplined about my finances helped build a foundation for the future. According to a recent article by US News & World Report, a lot of romantic partners dread bringing up finances. A poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling revealed 68 percent of respondents thought discussing money with a hypothetical fiancé would at least be awkward. In the worst case scenario, they believed it could even lead to a breakup.

Paying off my own debt

Although some financial experts say there is nothing wrong with having a new spouse pay off the other person's debt, I wanted to do it on my own. I think I just have that Generation X independent spirit. I felt like it was my responsibility to pay off my own credit cards. I know a lot of Gen-Yers are delaying marriage because of massive student loan debt. I don't personally think there is anything wrong with getting married with some debt, but I liked the feeling of satisfaction of knowing I paid off my debt without any help.

Being drawn to financial opposite

Experts say the reason some couples are afraid to talk about money is because they might find their romantic partner is their financial opposite. Even though it might seem as though I am the stereotypical female "spender" and my husband was the "saver," it turned out to be more complicated than that. We don't really clash over spending versus savings decisions. As long as we can each spend money on what we value, we don't have any tension. My husband values his hobbies and travelling. I value my health. We both want to save for the future, but we aren't obsessed with having $2 million for retirement.

Sharing common goals

My husband and I did find it beneficial to have some shared financial goals. Our primary goal was to save money for a new construction home. By being forced to pay off my credit card debt before we exchanged vows, we had more income to save for a down payment on a house. We were able to save up 20 percent to put down on our new house. After the value of our home started sinking when the housing bubble burst, we came up with a new common goal. Our goal was to pay off our mortgage in half the time by refinancing to a lower interest rate and making additional payments.

I've never had a fight about money with my husband. Even though he refused to marry me with my $10,000 worth of credit card debt, he now tells me that it was he really wasn't worried about my debt. He just noticed how much it bothered me to enter a marriage with financial baggage. As I paid down my debt, my husband was busy saving money for furniture and tech toys for our new home. In the end, I'm glad we had the hard money talks before we got married.

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