Money is the #1 Issue to Discuss Before Saying "I do"

According a recent article from Reuters, how couples handle money early in their marriage can have a profound impact on the rest of their lives. Now, I don't disagree but couples better not wait until after the honeymoon to talk about the BIG issue. Money is the number one problem that couples fight about and a major factor in most divorces. Yet surprisingly, many couples don't discuss cash until there are problems. Some key issues that you must discuss before you walk down the aisle with anyone.
  • How much money do you both have in savings, checking, IRS's, 401K's and other assets?
  • What liabilities do you or your partner have? Include mortgages, car payments, school loans, personal loans, and credit cards?
  • What is the current status for you and your partner with the IRS? Beware of marrying anyone who owes the IRS money. It can cause havoc for both of you.
  • How do you both feel about money? For some money represents control, others view it simply for fun. Some folks are savers. Identify what your attitude is about money.
After reviewing the answers to these questions, talk about how you plan to handle the money after marriage. Separate checking accounts, one joint or a little of both? Who will pay the bills? What will be the "rule" about money? In other words, when do you need to consult each other regarding spending? Ten dollars? Fifty? One hundred? More people lie in marriage over their spending than any other issue. I am often asked, "What is the best way to handle the money after marriage?" There is no one "best way." I have seen couples be very successful with a joint account or two separate accounts. Some couples like to split the bills and others put one spouse in charge of the money. Whatever system you use, make sure that the spouse who is a saver or planner is influential in the family finances.

Barbara Bartlein is a therapist, professional speaker, successful businesswoman, and writer. Her column, "Success Matters," appears widely in professional periodicals including The Business Journal and Sales Master Mind. The president of Great Lakes Consulting Group, she lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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