Half of all marriages end in divorce and money is one of the leading causes. Divorce could sometimes be avoided if each you understood how the other thinks about and uses money from the start. So don’t skip the part where you talk about money, it’s too important to your marriage and your future. In other words, before you take the plunge, fess up and bear your financial soul, credit report, and all.
So what should ‘the money talk’ include? Here are some suggestions, but tweak it to fit your personal situation:
1. Talk about your goals, including any specific money or financial aspirations.
2. Discuss your feelings about credit and debt, and how you think those should be handled. Share your credit reports and discuss how any outstanding debts each of you have should be handled during the marriage.
3. Discuss “what if” scenarios to get a better feel for how your spouse-to-be would react in certain situations. Ask questions like, “If you suddenly inherited $10,000, what would you do with the money?” Or ask him or her to list five things they consider necessities and five things they consider luxuries.
4. Discuss your money management styles, and how you believe money should be managed during the marriage. For example:
a. Should you have one checking account that you both use, or three checking accounts – a his, hers, and household? If you choose three checking accounts, how will the household account be funded?
b. Will you manage your finances together, split up the tasks, or will one spouse be responsible for it all?
c. How will spending decisions be made?
Finally, decide whether a prenuptial agreement would be advantageous in your situation, and if so, include it in your money talks as early as possible. A prenup can not only be used to document how your assets will be split up after a divorce, but it can absolve you of your spouse’s debts, protect a portion of your assets for children from a previous marriage, and keep a family business in tact and in the family. There are costs associated with prenups, but it can more than pay for itself in the reduced financial stress alone. A valid prenup will require that you both have a lawyer and agree to full disclosure.
Some specific situations where you might want to consider a prenup include:
1. You have assets such as a home, stock, or retirement funds that you want to protect
2. You own all or part of a business and you want to protect your future interests
3. You may be receiving a future inheritance
4. You have children/grandchildren from a previous marriage and you want to be sure that they will be taken care of after your death
5. Your spouse-to-be is paying child support from a previous marriage
6. You have agreed to pay for the professional education of your spouse-to-be and you want to be sure that you will benefit from the income that he or she will receive in the future
Note: Want to know more? Here is an article that spells out the basics of prenups
The ‘money talk’ can be intense, so don’t feel like you have to get it all done in one day. This discussion should be an ongoing dialogue. Remember communication is key to building a strong marriage and talking about money is a great place to start.
Patricia Stallworth, CFP® and CDFA, is the president of PS Worth, a financial education company, the author of Minding Your Money, and the host of the Minding Your Money Minute™. Learn more by visiting MindingYourMoney.net.