for such detailed financial information is decidedly unromantic, or at the very least tacky. Besides, who wants to be. perceived as a gold digger or someone only interested in their partner’s financial wherewithal? Still others believe that highlighting money matters reduces marriage to an economic relationship.
“But it doesn’t have to be like a business merger,” says Adisa Ajamu, 33, a Washington, D.C., educator brave enough to say he’ll open up his books voluntarily the minute the right woman comes along. He agrees with the concept of full disclosure. “You can plan better as a couple if you have the complete financial forecast.”
Experts who counsel couples about money also say full disclosure is crucial to building intimacy and preserving the overall health of a relationship. “If couples can’t ask their potential mate about finances, I would say they’re not ready to get married,” says Kathleen Stepp, CPA, CFP, a financial advisor with Stepp & Rothwell Inc., in Overland Park, Kansas. “It’s like going to the doctor and then refusing to take off your clothes. What’s the point?”
Vincent Bond, 24, and Hope Darrell, 28, of Los Angeles, say they’ve disclosed some aspects of their finances to each other, but not all the particulars. The reason is simple: it’s so incredibly difficult to break the ice on such a touchy subject. “We don’t talk about money too much,” says Vincent, who works at a local supermarket. Hope, a homemaker, adds, “He doesn’t know everything about my credit history. But I know more about his because I’m nosy and I ask questions.” The couple plans to get married this fall. Both of them shun credit cards, preferring instead to pay for goods and services with cash. While they put away about $100 a month in savings, they’re still living from paycheck to paycheck. Together, they live on about $30,000 annually. “We don’t save a lot right now, but that will definitely change after we’re married,” Hope believes.
TALKING IS THE BEST MEDICINE
After couples move past disclosure, they should next discuss what they’ve unearthed. OK, chances are you didn’t know that your partner filed for bankruptcy protection five years ago. Now’s the time to talk about that incident, why it happened and how it might impact, say, your near-term ability to buy a home. Or perhaps you were unaware that your sweetheart spends $500 a month on clothes. Is that reasonable to you?
Initially, financial conversations are probably going to be uncomfortable. But, in the long run, those frank discussions will avert many quarrels over money and strengthen the partnership.
“You can avoid a lot of problems in the future just by talking,” says Steven Sanders, president of the Philadelphia office of MDL Capital Management Inc. “But for some people, it’s much easier to talk about something as touchy as sex than it is to talk about money.”
Sanders attributes the reluctance to several things. In some cases, he says, cultural influences may inhibit discussions about money, so people just don’t address the matter. Also, he observes, many