The best wedding present I ever found was free.
Do you remember any of the gifts you received when you got married? The only gift I remember is this cheesy old clock somebody gave us. Although we never really liked it, I have to admit it’s still ticking after 22 years.
But if somebody would have given us a gift that would have eliminated 80% of the arguments we’ve ever had…now that’s a gift I’d remember – even though we rarely argue. (I realized several years ago that my wife is always right. Why should I argue with her?)
How would you like to give someone such a gift? What if you could give that gift without paying a dime for it? That would be something of real value…right? Well…today is your lucky day.
You can give a gift that will eliminate 80% of any couples arguments, and you can do this by having a talk with them about money.
Don’t let anyone you care about exchange vows or even check out engagement ring prices until they exchange balance sheets, income statements and credit reports.
Having a discussion about money could be the best chance they have of making their marriage last.
Both parties need to be on the same financial page because once they are married, their assets and debts become one. Each party should know about the other person’s financial strengths and weaknesses before they meet under the canopy.
Some folks might find these suggestions unromantic. The spouse-to-be might feel insulted by the insinuated lack of trust. I suppose they have a point. But given the choice between an awkward moment and a significantly happier and longer marriage, I’d take the chance.
Here are the questions the couple should answer:
1. Should they pool their assets and bills?
When we got married we didn’t have any assets or debts, so it was easy. And because I had a business background, the accounting and bill paying fell to me. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake. My wife is now more involved with bill paying using You Need A Budget, and it’s not a trivial issue. When you pay the bills you get a clear sense of what things cost and what they mean. If I had to do it all over again, I’d make bill paying a joint effort from the start.
2. What happens if one dies prematurely?
Businesses have continuation plans – so should families. How would the surviving spouse manage financially? Do you need life insurance? How much insurance do they have now?
These are all important questions to ask before it’s too late. Usually, these issues are resolved in a financial plan, but there is no reason to wait. Discuss your situation now. The coverage a person has as a single person is usually not adequate once they tie the knot.
3. What happens in case of divorce?
Who gets what and when? With divorce rates as high as 50%, this is a subject nobody can ignore. You may or may not need to consult an attorney to codify an agreement, but it just makes sense to talk about this issue before it gets emotional.
I have found that by addressing these “end of relationship” issues before they become problems, couples have better marriages. This conversation takes the heat out of the money issue. It reduces pressure and can really add to the viability of the relationship.
Did you talk about money before you got married? Did it help? What do you wish you’d done differently? If it’s not appropriate for you to sit down with the engaged couple…what else can you do? (hint…e-mail them this post!)