Marriage and Money: Expert Advice

Wrap-up from expert chat: Love, Marriage and Money with authors Gail Liberman and Alan Lavine

Problem: Marriage and Credit History!

"I will be getting married in January, and have a question about how marriage can affect your credit history. I have a few glitches in my credit history, but my fiancé has a sparkling credit history. Will getting combined accounts and applying for credit together affect his history? We don't want to affect his record." --tiffste

If you decide to apply for a joint credit account, the lender will consider your income, financial assets and credit history as well as the income, assets and credit history of your spouse. So your ability to get a joint credit card, for example, could be hampered -- depending upon how serious your credit problems were and how strong your joint income and assets are. Keep in mind that different lenders have different standards.

Nowadays, credit card and loan rates also may be based on credit history. So if you apply for a joint account and you have bad credit, you need to consider that you both could wind up paying a higher rate than your spouse-to-be would, if he were to apply for the loan or credit card on his own.

With a joint account, you also both are liable for the bills -- even if just one of you did the charging!

Meanwhile, if you happen to live in a community property state, you may both be responsible for debts incurred in your marriage. So even if your spouse-to-be applies for credit in his own name, once you're married, your debts can appear on his credit report. Community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Also: Puerto Rico.

Now for the good news. Most negative credit information can only remain on your credit report for a maximum of seven years from your last payment before an account became delinquent.

Check your credit reports to make sure your on-time payments are getting reported, and check that those blemishes are wiped out after seven years!

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