What You Should Know About Your Future Spouse's Finances

By Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP®
CEO, Blue Ocean Global Wealth

Discussing financial matters can be stressful for couples. It pulls up a lot of emotional baggage and fear, and may shine a light on fundamental differences that the couple isn’t aware of.

Hard as this conversation is, the key is to a happy marriage is to address money issues long before a conflict, or financial crisis, emerges.

Here are three things you should know the money habits of your partner—before you marry:

1. When it comes to money, what is your future spouse’s philosophy and values about earning, spending, and saving? For some, money may symbolize freedom, flexibility, or independence. For others, it may represent power, control, security, or love. It is not uncommon for your philosophy or values regarding money to differ from the person you’re engaged to. After all, you both have your own individual life experiences that ultimately influence your money personality. What’s important is to have an open, honest conversation about your thoughts, beliefs, and financial goals. That will save you from a lot of heartache down the road.

2. Know each other’s saving and spending habits. As Tom Jones serenades in the disco classic, Love Is In The Air: “Love is in the air everywhere I look around, Love is in the air every sight and every sound; I don’t know if I’m being foolish, I don’t know if I’m being wise, But it’s something that I must believe in, And it’s there when I look in your eyes.” Sweet, right? Now, wake up. There’s nothing sentimental about money. If your honey loves to splurge on a weekly purchase of flowers, champagne, and caviar, and you prefer to show your love with a pepperoni pizza and save the rest of your hard-earned cash for a rainy day, your relationship will flounder when the bank statement arrives. To avoid the drama:

  • Make time to learn each other’s saving and spending habits. Find out if your betrothed lives paycheck to paycheck, or sticks to a budget.
  • Know whether your future spouse is spender or a saver.
  • Decide how much you will annually contribute to your 401(k) at work or systematically direct your savings to an IRA or an emergency fund.

3. Address each other’s debt obligations before you say, “I do.” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that adage most definitely holds true when addressing each other’s debt obligations. Don’t wait until you officially exchange your wedding vows to discuss how you will handle any current and future personal debt (student loans, credit card debt, business loans, car notes). The reality is that debt brought into a marriage may cause additional pressure. Be clear, have a payment plan, and establish long- and short-term financial goals before you walk down the aisle.

The Bottom Line

Couples often make the mistake of focusing so much on the bliss of getting married and planning the perfect wedding that they avoid the hard discussion of money. Don’t make that mistake. By investing time and energy in your future financial plans and goals early on, you’ll be preparing for a truly happy marriage. In the end, isn’t that the real goal?

Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP® is the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, which provides corporations and institutions with portfolio construction, investment due diligence, and risk-management consulting services. The firm works with families, entrepreneurs, and executives to help them identify and achieve their financial goals. As a CFP Board Ambassador, she helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.

A Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board Member and member of the finance committee, Cheng served eight years on the Board of Directors of her alma matter, The Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, where she collaborated to increase alumni engagement and developed asset management education programs. She is also the President of the Blue Ocean Economic Empowerment Fund.

Cheng says her greatest joy and passion is touching the lives of others so that they may achieve their “personal financial success.”

For more information, visit www.blueoceanglobalwealth.com.

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