Financial problems, divorce, and trashed credit reports often go hand in hand. In fact, some studies suggest that up to 80% of divorces cite financial problems as the primary factor leading to the dissolution of the marriage. It is no secret that divorce tends to cause major credit issues after the fact as well - credit issues that can take as long as a decade to fully resolve. Protecting your credit from divorce is an unpleasant reality that many people face.
However, is it possible to protect your marriage from credit problems? If so many divorces stem from financial problems and disagreements does it not stand to reason that making a solid plan to address these issues before they get out of hand could be beneficial to your marriage itself? The answer to both of these questions is "Yes!" It is absolutely possible to protect your marriage from credit problems but it will take hard work, a solid plan, and a commitment to follow the plan. Here are 5 steps to help you get started.
1. Do not ignore the problem.
When money and credit problems arise it can be tempting to stick your head in the sand and try to ignore the fact that you are in financial trouble - or at least headed that way. After all, financial problems are extremely stressful. Many people use "ignoring the problem" as their coping mechanism to try to escape from pressure and stress.
Unfortunately, ignoring financial problems tends to backfire. Late payments on your mortgage can lead to a foreclosure down the road. Unpaid credit obligations can lead to increased fees, collection accounts, and even lawsuits. It may not seem like it initially, but pretending that your financial problems are not happening is a recipe for disaster. Be open with your spouse about financial and credit problems when they arise and be sure to be proactive where your creditors are concerned as well.
2. Consider seeking professional help.
The decision to "handle things yourself" might not always be in your best interest. Yes, it may require an investment to work with a professional but that investment is often well worth the financial sacrifice in the long run. If you need help rebuilding damaged credit then consulting with a reputable credit expert may be great place to start. (CLICK HERE to schedule a no-obligation credit analysis with a HOPE Credit Expert.) If you sense that your marriage is in trouble due to financial problems then speaking with your minister or a professional marriage counselor is another option that you may want to strongly consider. Never be afraid to ask for help.
3. Plan to succeed together.
Have you ever heard the saying, "Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail?" The statement is especially true where your finances are concerned. If you do not have a family budget set up then you should (a) track and figure out where you are spending your money and (b) create a spending plan - aka a budget - for your household to begin following right away. CLICK HERE for a free budgeting worksheet to get started.
4. Be quick to admit your mistakes and even quicker to forgive the mistakes of your spouse.
Almost no one is perfect when it comes to managing their finances and credit - not you and not your spouse. If you do make a financial mistake, whether it be minor or major, be quick to fess up. Your spouse may not be happy with you, but it will be much less of a betrayal than if he/she finds out about your misdeeds from you directly rather than from your bank account or credit report after the fact. Additionally, if your spouse is the one who makes the financial mistake you should be quick to swallow your anger and forgive.
5. Be accountable.
When you commit to changes, such as following a budget or cleaning up past credit mistakes, do not be afraid to rely upon your spouse for help. In fact it is a great idea to schedule a weekly "meeting" with your spouse to remind one another of the reason you are working to make financial changes (i.e. to buy a home, to get out of debt, to reduce the stress on your marriage, etc.) and to assess how your plan is progressing. Discuss what each of you could have done better and what successes you achieved. Remaining accountable to one another and encouraging each other as you achieve small victories will not only help to insure you reach your financial goals sooner it will also strengthen your marriage.
Michelle Black is an author and a credit expert with over a decade of experience, the credit blogger at HOPE4USA.com, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, a contributor to the Wealth Section of Fort Mill Magazine, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, credit reporting, correcting credit errors, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE Facebook page by clicking here.