Let’s Talk Money

In the haze of love, newlyweds often forget to discuss the one topic that experts say can make or break their marriages-money. Arguments over

finances are a leading cause of marital strife, and figuring out how to make money and marriage work are at the center of keeping love strong. When you and your sweetie diverge financially, often the relationship isn’t far behind.

Whether you’re just starting out, still looking for love, or facing financial heartbreak, handling finances requires constant communication and creates intimacy and a shared investment in the relationship.

The black enterprise Guide to Love & Money is a how-to for keeping your relationship and bank account intact. Following are four tips from marital and financial experts as well as couples, who discuss their challenges and how they have come to enjoy the journey.

1. Disclose your financial history and money management style (or lack thereof) to your significant other.

When marriage is imminent, pull each other’s credit reports. Talk about how much you earn. Discuss how much you have saved up in your retirement account. Calculate your net worth (that involves writing down all your assets and debts) individually and as a couple. Share information about supplemental income, monthly expenses, and existing loan and credit card debt.

“Just like we ask our partners about their health, sexual history, and their religious upbringing, so too should we ask them about their money morals and financial habits,” says Lynnette ?Khalfani-Cox, a New Jersey-based financial expert and author known as The Money Coach. As much as 70% of all divorcing couples had ?financial troubles in their relationships, Khalfani-Cox says.

Asia Stoddard knew her future husband’s credit was bad, but she had no idea that he’d once declared bankruptcy. She didn’t find that out until months after they had exchanged vows. The first time Stoddard, 40, saw her husband Joe’s credit report was when they were attempting to purchase a property in Maryland. His credit file was riddled with unpaid debt.

Joe, 38, wasn’t intentionally hiding his past money mishaps from Asia when they married in 1996. They simply had never thought about having a heart-to-heart about their financial histories. “Before getting married we didn’t have any discussion,” Asia says. “We just knew each other. We became friends, we dated, and we got married.”

It is common for couples to fall in love and forget to deal with crucial details such as money management, says Mechel Glass, director of education for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta. Glass, who teaches a financial literacy class called “Saying I Do,” says many people “fall in love-head over heels-but then that’s all they know about each other.”

The Stoddards, who bought the property in Maryland and now own International Marble and Granite L.L.C., which supplies stone products, such as countertops and flooring for homes and ?businesses (Asia is also a real estate agent), say their first years of marriage were full of unpleasant financial surprises. Among them: their financial styles were totally different. Joe is an entrepreneur at heart, impetuous, and a