Financial disputes can strain even the most solid relationships. Differing financial values can cause friction, and often it is very difficult for an individual to change their fundamental financial values, habits, and routines. If a couple has poor communication skills, the financial disputes are exacerbated even further. For a successful marriage, it is important to have certain key financial discussions, and if a couple is considering a premarital agreement, these discussions should be incorporated into that negotiation to ensure each party is entering into the premarital agreement with eyes wide open.
Ideally, a couple should determine if their financial values are compatible before marriage. However, it is never too late to have these discussions now or when an issue arises by meeting with a neutral financial professional or marriage therapist to assist in this discussion. Even though these are financial decisions, these conversations are fraught with emotions, so a third-party professional can help you stay on topic and get you through the emotional hurdles. And these financial issues will evolve throughout your relationship depending on several factors, such as:
Starting a family
Change in income
Dealing with a disability
Supporting elderly parents
Education planning for children and spouses
Learning from a professional how to have these difficult conversations can significantly improve your relationship’s viability in the future.
Two of the most important initial discussions to have before marriage include:
Whether to combine operating checking accounts or continue to operate out of separate checking accounts.
Preparing a monthly budget and cash flow statements and setting up mechanisms to achieve the goals of the budget.
Combining Checking Accounts
Do you combine your operating checking accounts, or do you continue to operate out of separate checking accounts? For some couples, it is important for the balance of power for both parties to deposit their monthly income in the same account and pay bills and credit cards out of that account. Some couples prefer more daily autonomy in their day-to-day spending with less accountability to the other spouse. Several other factors could affect this decision, including whether there is a premarital agreement.
Prepare a Monthly Budget and Cash Flow Statement
Complete transparency and openness with your partner about your current financial situation is essential for a sustainable relationship. Both spouses should gather and disclose all of their current income and debt obligation statements to the other spouse. Then set up two or three one-hour meetings a few days apart with your spouse outside your home to discuss your monthly income and debt obligations and to put together a monthly budget and cash flow statement.
Work with a Professional
If one spouse is not very financially savvy, having a financial professional involved to educate and assist with this process is highly recommended. Knowing how much you bring in each month versus your expenses will help prevent future arguments about money and spending.
Set up an accountability structure in your budget and schedule periodic reviews of the budget and cash flow. Also include monthly saving allowances for future goals and a mechanism for achieving these monthly savings allowances (i.e., a monthly automatic withdrawal into a savings account, automatic monthly debt payment over the minimum payment amount, or a monthly automatic retirement contribution.)
Work Toward Long-Term Financial Goals
This budget and cash flow exercise will also assist you in discussing long-term financial goals such as saving for retirement, creating a 6-month emergency fund, saving for a yearly travel fund, contributing to 529 plans, or paying off debt. Incorporate your long-term financial goals into your monthly budget and cash flow statements.
Every relationship is bound to have a financial hurdle to overcome, but what matters is how you tackle these situations as a couple. If you and your spouse are having trouble coming to a decision on your own, do not be afraid to reach out for help. Working with a neutral third party can give you the peace of mind to move forward with confidence. If you and your significant other are considering a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement, Goranson Bain Ausley’s experienced attorneys can help.
Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of family law and will guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you have the information you need to make wise decisions and prepare for the future.
“I recognize the importance of managing the financial and emotional costs of contested family matters. I work hard to achieve the best possible outcomes for my clients while minimizing the toll it takes on their day-to-day lives.”