Sunday, November 22, 2015


I want to share this excellent article by Lane Marmon, who had a career as a family law lawyer and is currently a director at HHG, a financial management company in Darien, CT.  I counsel many people who are unhappy with their money habits and/or with the negative impact disagreements about money have on their relationship. Lane's tips are excellent. I hope you find them helpful.


Congratulations! You are engaged and have started planning your dream wedding. You have considered who should be in your wedding party, what music will be played and where the special day will take place. However, marriage is a big step and having a serious discussion about finances with your soon to be spouse is important. Therefore, it is shocking that most people generally do not discuss finances and household responsibilities before saying “I do”.  

Below are five recommended topics of conversation for you and your future spouse to discuss.

Share your spending habits:
When it comes to spending, you need to be honest with your spouse about your habits.If you are honest with each other, you are more likely to work together to reach your goals in a trusting relationship. However, if you are dishonest, you may find yourself hiding your credit card charges or arguing over the balance of the checking account. You should consider that there may be a reason why your spouse pinches every penny or spends every dime. Having a conversation about a habit can lead to a stronger and more thoughtful relationship. In addition, it enables you to set realistic goals with your spouse about saving and spending.

Having a mysterious credit history is not a turn-on.  In fact it can be a turn-off. Your soon to be spouse may have a prestigious high-paying job in New York City but, he may also have hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. Having debt does not necessarily need to be a deal breaker for you.  However, it will help you to set realistic saving goals. 
For example, an individual who accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt and has a diminished credit score, may influence a spouse’s ability to purchase a house. Together, you and your spouse can repair credit damage and pay off debts.  However, it is hard to repair something that you do not know is damaged.  The key is transparency. 
Discuss how you are combining your finances:
Each relationship is different. Understanding how each spouse’s income is going to be treated and how the expenses are going to be paid varies from couple to couple.  Some couples merge all their income and expenses, others keep everything separate. Whereas, others follow a hybrid model of keeping some income and expenses joint and others separate. Once you have decided how the income and expenses are going to be handled, one spouse needs to take the lead on managing them and monitoring the monthly cash flow. 
Often times the spouse who is monitoring the cash flow is seen as the spouse with more financial control and knowledge. However, with honest conversations about expenses, both spouses can feel equally involved in the decision making process.
Define your financial goals:
Everyone has a financial goal. Perhaps it is to save up for a new set of golf clubs or a small starter home. On the other hand, it may be to be a stay-at-home parent. Whatever it may be, you should share those goals with your future spouse. You will receive a greater understanding of your spouse’s desires and it will help develop a serious discussion about the reality of those goals. 
Financial Advisor:
Having a financial advisor to provide knowledge, resources and insight is exceedingly helpful when developing a financial plan. You want to pick a financial advisor who is honest and makes you feel comfortable. Your advisor will work with you to develop your financial goals, plans surrounding a major life event and tax strategies, among other things. It is never too early to pick a financial advisor, since you want to develop a long-lasting relationship with an individual who understands you as a couple and your future plans.
By having these serious conversations about finances, you are building a healthier and stronger relationship with your spouse. 

[1] This is from a study conducted using longitudinal data from more than 4,500 couples as part of the National Survey of Families & Households.

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