By Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP®
Financial Advisor and Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner
Ameriprise Platinum Financial Services
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 everwhere 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?
Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP® is a Certified Financial Planner TM based in Bethesda, MD. She works with individuals and families to help them identify, clarify, and quantify their life financial goals and objectives.
Through her personalized approach, she educates and empowers her clients to plan for their personal financial future. She proudly serves as a CFP Board Ambassador to help raise awareness in the public at large, policy makers and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.
Since January 2012, she has been the president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area.
For more information, visit www.ameripriseadvisors.com.