Every marriage counselor, family attorney and money manager in the land cites financial problems as the number one cause of divorce. Wildly popular bestselling author and radio host, David Ramsay, visits the topic frequently on his weekly show. A New York Times study recently revealed that money fights among couples are the most reliable predictors of divorce. Everybody agrees: Failure to talk about money and work out the finances before tying the knot makes for fights.
Hidden debt is the number one offender. Imagine finding out on the honeymoon that your new spouse’s debt will cost dozens of times more than your celebratory getaway.
“Every couple should fully disclose their debts and assets prior to marriage,” says Warren Henson III, an Oklahoma City family attorney who’s seen more than his fair share of marital implosions over money. “After marriage, those debts need to remain separate, and funds shouldn’t be comingled in joint bank accounts. Doing so means both spouses’ funds are subject to collection by the creditors of the spouse in debt.”
Newlyweds should dedicate effort to working out a mutually acceptable budget that recognizes their shared values and goals. Living beyond the budget will eventually catch up to a couple.
For some, a best course of action might be to keep all finances separate until the marriage shows endurance. Unless otherwise specified, once married, what’s his is hers and what’s hers is his. If your spouse decides to take back the ring, the court may decide to wrap that ring in your money.
The first step up the best approach is for newlyweds to seek the advice of a mutually acceptable counselor – preferably one with money management experience. “The worst scenario I’ve seen involved a wealthy, completely liquid client that also had extensive real estate holdings. A few months into the marriage, the husband’s gambling habit came to light. Their pastor advised them to combine the assets in order to build an equal footing in their marriage. The gambling habit didn’t go away and, as expected, eroded the underpinnings of the marriage. Combining those assets cost the wife hundreds of thousands of dollars in the subsequent divorce action when the estate was divided equally by the court,” says Henson.
Having the talk isn’t easy. Finances are stressful enough without dragging a lifelong commitment into the picture. But having that talk will go a long way toward producing a commitment that lasts a lifetime.