Health & Medicine

'Til debt do you part

As wedding season descends upon those gleefully in love, happy couples ruminate endlessly about color schemes and flower choices.

But there is one topic couples mightily try to avoid: money.

”It's a huge issue,“ said Mike Allen, marriage and family life minister for the Catholic Diocese in Lexington. ”Most statistics show that (disagreement about finance) is one of the prime causes of marital conflict.

”Money in a strange way is a very personal thing,“ said Allen, who counsels engaged couples as part of his job. ”We have a lot of fears related to money.“

Because many people are getting married later in life, he said, many of today's couples have the advantage of having some real-world experiences with finances before they get hitched.

But, he said, they also are part of a culture addicted to credit.

”The average household in the United States spends more than they make … which is a pretty staggering thought,“ he said.

Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, even in this cynical age, couples think love will conquer all — even credit card debt. Allen cautions that couples need to be aware that the bad credit of one spouse can have long-term implications for the other.

”Young people are so infatuated, they don't think about finances,“ said Suzanne Badenhop, extension professor at the University of Kentucky.

She suggested that a couple work out a joint spending plan that lays out how to handle household bills and savings levels. It's not surprising, she said, that such plans are more common in second marriages, when people have learned from the money mistakes they made the first time around.

One trick that couples might use to start the discussion is to make separate lists about their financial priorities, then compare them.

”If you don't talk about it and one person is doing one thing and the other is doing something different, it's almost like a sandbur in your shoe,“ said Badenhop, who teaches ­financial management education through the extension service. ”It gets sore, it gets deeper, and pretty soon you are at the marriage counselor.

”Whatever plan they work out, they need to work it out together.“

You need a plan, she said.

”Would you leave Lexington on a trip to California without a road map?“ she asked. ”You need a financial road map for where you are going.“