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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

YOUR’S, MINE, & OURS: Tips on Combining Income with Your Spouse/Partner, Part 1: The Engagement

Congratulations! You’re engaged!  This can be one of the most exciting times in your life.  You have grown to love and cherish someone special; they have reciprocated those sentiments…Now all you need is a white horse to appear and you two will ride out into the sunset and live happily ever after?  Right.

Hold up! Before you drift too far into La-La-Land…let’s take a minute to go over a sort of checklist to ensure that you and your dreamboat are living in the same fairytale.  

1.     Start thinking in terms of “US”.

I can totally relate the elation you feel when you are anticipating the day that you and your future husband/wife become one and get to the business of spending the rest of your lives together.  When I was getting married, I was in the last semester of completing my MBA program, my fiance was also starting out in his career.  Having been “on my own” for 8 years, I was used to thinking in terms of “me” and “mine”.  I also made the mistake of assuming that once we got married what was “his” would automatically become “mine” as well.  I’ve got news for you! Even if you are the one that is more financially savvy in the relationship (as I was), you must think in terms of “US”.  Everyone gets a vote and everyone’s vote counts the same.  This will help you avoid pitfalls in the future when it comes to making big decisions about money.    If you have your spouse’s complete “buy-in” you can ensure that they will be equally involved and supportive if things don’t go as planned. 

2.      Discuss your financial goals: Not just the WHAT, but the HOW.

I know this seems obvious, but you would be surprised to find how many couples “assume” their future spouse has the same goals as them when it comes to money.  It’s not only important to plan how many kids, cars, and houses you want; but it’s also important to discuss how you are going to get there! Remember, the HOW is just as important as the WHAT.  We can sit and daydream and wish upon a star all day long, but how will you know that your dreamboats’ idea of planning for retirement is playing the Lotto every week instead of contributing to their 401k, if you don’t talk about it.  The HOW matters; talk about it.

3.      Have a “Come Clean” Ceremony.

Last night I watched an episode of the sitcom “Mike and Molly” where Molly wants to start saving for their wedding, but Mike get distracted by a car he wants to buy.  The episode goes awry when Molly finds out that Mike bought the car behind her back.  The car ends up being a lemon and Mike is able to return it and get most of his money back.  At the end of the episode, Mike and Molly decide to start sharing money and calling it “OUR MONEY”.  They are sitting at the kitchen table and having a “Come Clean” ceremony.  All their financial documents are out on the table and they are sharing what they have in their accounts and how much they owe.  Mike apparently is a great saver and has a clear record of what he has and Molly is really impressed. 

Molly on the other hand has what she calls a “ballpark” amount and says that she doesn’t really have any money because she likes to travel a lot. Then she mumbles something about “carrying a little credit card debt”, Mike asks her how much, she says “Just 17 Thousand”!   Mike is shocked because from his perspective Molly should have more money than he does. She lives at home with her mother; her car is paid off, and has a good paying job. He on the other hand has been living on his own, paying rent, and has managed to save a decent nest egg. 

This was a funny episode, but many couples go through the same thing and it’s not so funny in real life.  You are engaged, about to make a commitment for life, you need to come clean and know where each of you stands in regards to finances.  You don’t want to come home from the honeymoon to a mess.  Even if you are sitting on a mess, coming clean to your fiancé gives the two of you time to discuss a game plan and establish a pattern of openness.     

4.       Discuss any additional obligations.

This is just for those special situations. It’s easy to forget to tell your fiancé that you routinely give $1,000 to the Humane Society every year, or that you owe your parents $1,500 for a car repair they helped you out with a few months back, or that your idea of a decent Christmas gift is $50 to everyone you know!  Remember nothing is too small or insignificant when starting out on the right foot.

How important do you think it is to discuss this topic during the engagement period?
How many tips or stories can you share when it comes to financially preparing for marriage?
What kind of conversations did you have when you were engaged regarding money?

Check back to  for Part 2: Home from the Honeymoon…

1 comment:

  1. He he.... a come clean ceremony is always fun. Just lay out the dirty laundry and expose your financial truth for your new spouse to see. As ugly and terrible as you financial demons may be, you will ultimately end up learning alot about each other in other ways


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