The Pre-Wedding Money Talk

Last Updated Jul 8, 2009 1:11 PM EDT

Before my husband and I got married we asked our rabbi if she had any advice for us. We expected her to offer up words of wisdom on everything from family planning to money management. Instead, she just laughed and said "Don't you have a therapist for that?". Looking back, she was right. We didn't need her help. But what we could have used was some guidance from a financial planner.

Of all the issues my husband and I have faced over the past 10 years, the trickiest one was negotiating our finances. Before we got married we didn't realize how differently we approached money, specifically our investments. While I'm quite conservative -- sometimes to a fault -- my spouse was downright aggressive with his portfolio. I didn't realize he bought stocks on margin until he started to grow nervous and couldn't sleep at night

Fortunately, we've ironed out most of our stylistic differences over the past decade. But I can't help but think that we could have avoided some of the drama if we had just met with a financial planner before we got married.

How could a professional have helped us? I spoke with Gregg Wind, a Los Angeles based financial advisor and accountant, who gave me some tips on what couples should discuss before saying "I do".

Disclose Your Assets
The funny thing about marriage is that couples often feel more comfortable sharing a bed than they do discussing money. This is particularly true of assets they've acquired before waking down the aisle. But if you want a happy partnership, you should consider disclosing all of your income, assets and debts to your fiancé, says Wind.

If you were previously married, make sure you also fess up and disclose any alimony or child support payments you need to make.

Discuss Your Investments
As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I had very different investment styles. Wind says that's fairly typical. That's why he always recommends couples discuss their investments and figure out if their combined asset allocation makes sense for them going forward. As you and your fiancé think about retirement, you'll want to make sure that your portfolios complement each other and together provide for the best possible retirement planning.

Set Goals
Young couples should sit down and discuss when they want to buy a house and start a family. In some cases, you may figure out you need to hold off on kids until you save some money. It's also important to find out if one spouse wants to stay home and raise the children? This will obviously have a very significant impact on your finances.

Older couples should discuss what type of retirement they want. One person may want to continue working into her 70s and live near family. The other may have fantasies of moving to a warmer climate and hitting the golf coarse daily. How much you'll need to save will differ under both scenarios.

Consider a Prenup
It may not sound romantic, but there are times when a prenuptial agreement makes sense. And if you're the one who wants your future spouse to sign one, you had better broach the topic long before the engagement party.

If you do ask your beloved to sign a prenup, make sure you're considerate of his or her feelings. If, for example, you need to protect your money because you have children from a previous marriage and you've promised them certain assets, you could consider buying life insurance so your future spouse won't be left with nothing, suggests Wind.

Make a Commitment
Finally, commit to each other that you'll continue to discuss money issues throughout your marriage. Wind recommends sitting down every six to 12 months and sifting through all of your finances. Make sure you're on track to meet your goals and that you're living within your means. While this may not sound like fun, it could save you a lot of heartache later on.

New Wedding Rings image by Dennis and Amy Jonez, CC 2.0.
  • Stacey Bradford

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