First comes loves, then comes money…. issues
Love is truly a wonderful thing that makes you feel like you are on cloud nine and, quite literally, leaves you dazed by cupid’s arrow. Many of us are luckily enough to find that one special person that makes our heart sing. All of sudden, we start to imagine building a future together. You imagine your perfect life with the 2.5 kids and the white picket fences. Rarely do you think about the finances needed make this magical life happen. Yet, most couples find this fairytale shattered because they can’t find common ground when it comes to money. Almost 50% of all marriages end in divorce and most of those list money as the main issue that lead to the breakdown in the marriage. The key to avoiding being part of this statistic is to start talking and planning how money will be part of the new life you are building together.
I do. Now, let’s talk….
When I first sit down to work with a client who is going through a divorce, I often ask them to tell me their story. A common thread that I always hear is a sense of bewilderment. They are grappling with self-doubt because they are shocked to have discovered they are married to a person who is now a stranger. Many times, they had no idea of their partner’s pre-existing debt, spending patterns, or lifestyle expectations. Having learned from these tragic cases, I now strongly encourage all couples who are thinking about marriage or living together to seek financial counseling. Start with a full disclosure. I ask my clients to bring with them a current credit report, as well as bank and credit card statements. You would disclose to your partner your health and sexual history; financial history is the same. Start by putting everything on the table so that you can start to plan your future with a firm grasp of what the picture looks like now.
Wedding Planning …. Financial Planning
Going through this full disclosure is not easy. For those reveling student or credit card debt, it can feel incredibly shameful. Remember though that you are sharing this with a person who loves you and wants to spend their life at your side. The vows are for “Richer or Poorer”. Now, you can start planning to get to the richer. The next thing I suggest is creating a budget for your new household. During this process, you will decide if your will join accounts or keep them separate. You can also decide how you are going to tackle paying bills and saving money. Lastly, I ask my clients to dream together. What does this incredible picture look like? What is are you doing during the sunset years of your life? How much will it take financially to make this dream a reality?
Should you add a “Pre” to your Nuptial’s
No conversation about marital financial counseling would be complete without discussing the dread term “Pre-Nup”. It is one of the most controversial topics in wedding planning, yet more and more couples are embracing it. I whole heartedly think that pre-nups make sense and should be considered, regardless of the level of assets a couple currently has. What I disagree with is blindsiding your future spouse with this document. Pre-nups should be agreed upon by both parties with legal counsel representing each or, at minimum, a neutral mediator. The thought is not to get the upper hand but to plan for the worst while you are both in the mindset of love and kindness toward each other.
Love and Marriage is a great thing and finding that one person who makes you complete is blessing. Marriage is also hard works and that begins before you walk down the aisle. Start your journey together on the right foot, with complete honesty. Remember that being forth right with your partner should be something positive and will form the basis for a great foundation. Enjoy this Valentine’s day and remember to be honest about everything, even the dinner bill!!!!