Disagreements about finances are one of the most common causes of friction in marriage. According to a survey conducted by Citibank, more than half (57 percent) of divorced couples said that financial problems and disagreements were the main reason for their divorce.
That’s why many marriage experts recommend that engaged couples spend time talking openly and honestly about finances before they walk down the aisle. Here are Frontier’s five areas to consider discussing before you and your partner say “I do”:
- The need for a prenup — A prenuptial agreement is a formal, legally binding document that details how marital assets will be divided in the event of divorce. Having a prenup may be more important if one spouse is coming into the marriage with a much larger percentage of assets than the other. The same may hold true if one spouse will be earning the bulk of the couple’s income during the marriage.
No doubt, the possible need for a prenup is a sensitive financial topic for engaged couples. However, Frontier believes it’s something that you should consider discussing, even if you decide that you don’t need one.
- Your financial goals — Where do each of you want to be financially in five, 10 or 20 years or longer? You might have very different financial goals, so it’s important to realize this and discuss it before you enter into marriage.
This may also lead into a discussion about things like spending and saving habits, whether you want to have children and how many, whether both spouses will continue working after you have kids, and whether one of you wants to go back to school later to continue your education. Frontier recognizes that all of these factors and more will influence your long-term financial goals.
- Your views on debt — Many people often have very different views about how debt should be managed. For example, some people are extremely debt-averse and try to avoid it at all costs, while others have a more relaxed view about debt. If two people with different perspectives on debt are planning to get married, this could be a major source of conflict if it isn’t discussed upfront.
For starters, each of you should disclose how much debt (if any) you are bringing into the marriage. This includes student loans, credit cards, car loans, mortgages and home equity loans. Entering a marriage without disclosing this to your spouse is dishonest at best, and it can set the marriage off on the wrong financial foot right from the start.
- How spending and saving decisions will be made — This discussion often goes hand-in-hand with the discussion about debt. For example, some people tend to spend money freely while others are more frugal and prefer to save as much money as possible.
A good way to get on the same page here is to work together to create a household budget. Then you can analyze all spending decisions based on whether or not they are supported by the budget. If this seems too rigid to you, you can build in some flexibility by padding the budget with some “mad money” that each spouse can spend without consulting the other.
- The handling of financial accounts and household financial management — Some married couples choose to consolidate their separate financial accounts into a single joint account together, while others prefer to keep their own separate accounts. There’s really no right or wrong approach to this in Frontier’s opinion— you and your spouse should do what seems best for your situation after talking about the pros and cons together.
It’s also important to discuss how management of household finances will be handled. In some marriages, one spouse is the “financial person” while the other has less financial skills and/or interest. Here, it’s natural for the financial person to assume responsibility for household financial management and bill-paying.
However, it can be dangerous if one spouse takes on all of this responsibility himself or herself. The other spouse may feel left out and somewhat powerless when it comes to household finances. Also, if the spouse handling finances were to die or become incapacitated, the other spouse would be at a serious financial disadvantage going forward.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss marriage and finances in more detail. We can help you and your partner talk about these and other issues in order to lay a firm financial foundation for your marriage.