Ray’s Take You’re blissfully in love and happily engaged to your soul mate. The future looks idyllic. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean your fiancé is your ideal financial mate. In fact, a study by professors from The Wharton School and Northwestern University revealed financial opposites tend to be attracted to each other, and those marriages often face significant challenges. With some honest and open discussion in advance, that doesn’t have to happen to you.
One of the biggest issues to honestly address is your individual financial situation, both past and present. What’s your credit score? Are there unpaid debts, back taxes, student loans, child support or other financial obligations to deal with? How about credit card debt? On the other hand, are either or both of you bringing significant assets to the marriage?
Full disclosure is important. Not only does this reveal more about spending habits of your partner, it also opens up discussion of how to address problems and preserve assets. It further opens a dialog on longer-term priorities and goals. Don’t expect to agree on everything. Regardless of what is revealed, the object is to face the facts and work together.
The other really big issue relates to the emotions attached to money – and they are strong and numerous. How your parents dealt with money affects the attitude of each individual, and it will affect your marriage as well. Your feelings about money will impact everything from who pays the bills to your household budget.
Perhaps that’s why there is a growing trend for couples to divide their money into three categories: the lion’s share goes to pay household bills and save for the future, but each partner keeps a small portion to spend or save freely.
You’ve probably discussed children, religion, life styles, and dozens of other topics. Don’t overlook honest discussion about the one topic that will influence all the others – money.
Dana’s Take Another money-related issue should be addressed before marriage is ambition. Typically both parties in a couple have jobs when they marry, but how do career plans for the future fit together?
If one aspires to be a stay-at-home parent, will the other’s income support a whole household? If your fiancé is embarking on a career that will call for 70-hour weeks or extensive travel, is that acceptable? If job advancement requires moving across the country, whose career takes precedent?
You career paths could be something that brings you closer together, but they could also be a source of conflict. By discussing in advance how you envision your future, both within your career and as a couple, you can talk through those issues and plot a course that fulfills both your needs.
However, remember this: Achieving financial affluence is fine, but there are other ways to enrich your life. That’s what really counts.
Ray Brandon is a certified financial planner and CEO of Brandon Financial Planning (www.brandonplanning.com). His wife, Dana, has a bachelor’s degree in finance and is a licensed clinical social worker. Contact Ray Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org.