You’ve found that special someone. You bring out the best in each other, share core values and want the same things out of life. However, if your premarital couples counseling didn’t include a discussion of finances, there’s much to discover about each other by delving into this topic.
For years, finances have been noted as a top factor contributing to divorce in the United States. However, it’s often not because a couple lacks financial resources. It’s because they have different ideas on how to handle them. Whether you’re recently engaged, newly married or several years into wedded bliss, a proactive coaching session with your financial advisor can help create alignment and reduce tension.
Understand these factors that influence financial compatibility, and you’ll likely find you understand your partner better, too:
Familial foundations. Your financial habits are impacted significantly by how you were raised – in some cases, by showing you how NOT to handle money. Did your parents make you earn an allowance? Teach you how to balance a checkbook? Establish a savings account in your name or explain the importance of good credit? These lessons influence your perspective on money, and calmly exploring your financial histories with an advisor rather than during a heated argument can create empathy as opposed to resentment.
Spender or saver tendencies. In addition to the financial habits you were taught, you each have an inherent tendency to spend or save. It’s beneficial to have both in a couple, even though you might wish your partner shared your affinity for shopping or love of a sizable rainy-day fund. I encourage you to really think about what that might be like – the pros and cons of having two spenders or two savers in a couple – and appreciate the differences in each other’s nature.
Big-picture priorities. Would you rather spend money on life experiences than material possessions? Is tithing or charitable giving one of your core values? Is funding private education for your kids a top priority? Without a financial plan, it’s easy to make short-term decisions about money. However, if you don’t agree on the big picture, it’s tough to ensure your spending priorities support what’s most important to your family long term.
Inherited debt. If you’re recently engaged or newly married, it’s important to understand the debt you’re marrying into. Almost all couples deal with student loans or home mortgage debt. Most have not been in the working world long enough to accumulate meaningful savings. Inheriting debt is normal and manageable, but you need to create a plan for prioritizing and paying it off, adjusting your household budget and monthly spending accordingly.
Discussing these issues with a financial advisor present provides a rational, objective third-party to help mitigate stress. Skip this step and you’ll uncover the same information over the course of your marriage but with much more conflict and much less empathy. If you’re embarrassed by past poor decisions or think you have too few assets to need a financial advisor, those are frequent – but inaccurate – perceptions. Finding common ground with your partner and enlisting professional expertise early in your marriage are important building blocks for when your assets begin to grow. So, do the work now and let your teammate in life be your teammate in finances, too.
Aaron Waters is a wealth advisor for Wymer Brownlee Wealth Strategies. He joined the company’s Enid office in 2010 and now operates from its location at Portland and Memorial in Oklahoma City. Aaron obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration in financial management from Abeline Christian University. He loves golf, fishing, music and travel – but nothing more than his wife, Natalie, and daughter, Ella Kate.