Matrimonial Money Matters
When you’re newly engaged, talking to your sweetie about your hefty school loans is probably the furthest thing from your mind. Who wants to talk about stressful subjects when there’s cake to taste and pretty clothes to try on? But it’s important to remember that after your big day, you and your new spouse will have a lifetime together and learning to communicate about your finances is essential to a happy, healthy – and prosperous – relationship.
To help get you started, here are three financial issues that are likely to create problems for newlyweds, and how to plan ahead.
ISSUE: SPENDING STYLES
The classic problematic polar opposites are those who love to spend money and display their wealth, and those who would prefer to watch their money add up in the bank. “I call them the Monarchs and the Spartans,” says Jonathan Rich, Ph.D., an Irvine, Calif.-based psychologist and author of “The Couple’s Guide to Love & Money” (New Harbinger, 2003). You might think two Monarchs together would prevent friction, but they are also more likely to get in over their heads, spending frivolously and running up debt. Similarly, two Spartans might be a little too frugal, saving soap chips and keeping the thermostat at 55 degrees even in the winter.
Don’t take your partner’s spending style personally. “Financial behavior usually predates the relationship and has more to do with a how a person was raised,” says Rich. To achieve a middle ground, he recommends setting aside a specific but brief time each month to determine a budget that allows for small splurges, and map out how to achieve long-term goals, such as a down-payment on a house.
Taking on shared debt, such as a joint credit card, car loan or mortgage, before you officially tie the knot should be avoided at all costs, says Opdyke. Although it isn’t pleasant to consider, there’s a remote chance you and your fiancé may not make it to the altar. Shared pre-marital debt means you would still be tied to the financial whimsy of your ex, putting you at risk of bad credit or foreclosure.
Wait until after the wedding. “Being married makes you legally bound in ways you aren’t when you’re just engaged,” says Opdyke. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to have an honest discussion about your current debt and plans to pay it off, as well as your views on debt in general – are you okay with living on credit or do you prefer to pay in cash?