It is the contradiction of love and marriage.
You’re in love and about to marry. You know it is important to talk about money before you wed, but you put it off.
Indeed, only about half of those taking their vows actually discussed the subject that has ruined countless marriages, according to a new SunTrust survey.
The poll found another contradiction: Eighty-eight percent of respondents said it was important to talk money before marriage. However, only 51 percent actually discussed it.
A Conversation not Had with Your Significant Other
Why don’t people have conversations that, if ignored, could lead to the breakup of marriage?
“Some may be hesitant to reveal poor past decisions or may be concerned that financial details could change the landscape of the relationship. Regardless of the past, couples need to discuss the financial reality of the present in order to plan successfully for the future,” says Joe Sicchitano, head of Wealth Planning and Advice Delivery at SunTrust. The SunTrust poll was conducted by Harris Associates among some 2,000 adults who are married or have a partner.
Asked about the poll, one sage observer believes that today, more than ever, it is a necessity to talk money before wedding.
Anthony Ogorek, an advisor in Buffalo, New York, says it is important to talk before marriage because people tend to marry later today and most have a significant financial history.
For those fearful of even discussing money, Sicchitano recommends taking baby steps.
“You don’t have to make every financial decision right away,” Sicchitano says.
“Agreeing on a few decisions can start a couple on the path to good financial habits,” according to Sicchitano. He said these things can include a common strategy on annual retirement contributions or saving for a house or how and who will pay the bills.
However, Ogorek says both parties should “lay their cards on the table.” It is important, he adds, before the wedding to know if your “partner has a lot of credit card debt and a lot of student loans.”
The Generation with the Most Red Ink
Ogorek says these are key issues because “this is the most indebted generation.” He also cautions that money discussions are needed because the law views marriage as “a financial union.”
An advisor in New Jersey agrees it is critical to talk money before marriage. That’s because each party should know the other’s money situation as well as his or her philosophy of money, especially if they differ, he says.
“Savers are never going to be spenders and spenders are never going to be savers. But it is important to discuss limitations and understand each other,” says Bernard Kiely, a CPA in Morristown, New Jersey.
Kiely, who says money woes wrecked a marriage in his family, contends that the issue is so important that he often gives two hours of free time to people who are about to wed so “they get off on the right foot.”
“No, We’d Don’t Need to Talk Money”
So, despite this sage advice from people who have witnessed martial money mayhem, you remain dubious about talking money before a marriage. Indeed, perhaps you think this is much ado about nothing.
Kiely warns that’s a big risk. He says a relative married “and tried to dictate money decisions. It was a disaster. I am convinced that is why he divorced.”
“Yes, We Do Need to Talk About Money”
Over the years I have been told by many financial advisors that so many plans to achieve financial independence were wrecked by husbands and wives pulling in opposite directions. One spent up a storm with little regard for how to pay for things while the other aggressively saved and invested, seeing his or her efforts ruined.
There is another way, both for those married and those about to wed. In the spirit of compromise, raising the issue can be difficult. Often couples fear that money can trigger bitter battles. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Remember: One doesn’t have to convert the other. But each has to learn to respect the other; giving some ground so that they can jointly achieve financial and personal goals.
Don’t be the ones who let marriage ruin their lives. Face the problem with an open mind. And it’s best to do it before you marry, but better late than never. Talk over money with your significant other. Someday, when you both have financial independence because you learned to respect each other’s money philosophy, you will be glad that you did. Otherwise you risk going through the same problems as Kiely’s family. You risk having money ruin your financial life and your marriage.