For as Long as We Live or Money Do Us Part

For as Long as We Live or Money Do Us Part by Susan Moussi

{3:19 minutes to read} Before you say, “I Do,” make sure you discuss important financial matters with your betrothed.

  • According to bridalguide.com, the most popular months to get married are June, September and October.
  • An article in The Atlantic has identified the average age for first marriages in the US as 27 for women and 29 for men.
  • According to a Pew Research Center online report dated November 14, 2014, remarriage is on the rise for people aged 55 and over.

When people get married at these ages, it means that for a few years, they have had some financial freedom to do as they see fit without having to discuss their choices with anyone else. Remarriages later in life bring two people together who now have many more years of separate financial lives.

When people marry, they probably plan the venue, the guest list, the honeymoon, but have they planned their financial lives as a couple?

The following three financial issues often come up when some of those couples go from “I do” to “I don’t.”

1. Different expectations about how each will contribute financially:

What are the expectations about what each will provide in the way of salary and benefits to the family? An issue may arise later if a spouse feels that their husband or wife did not contribute to their full capacity. For example, if one of them dropped out of the workforce, typically to raise children, but then did not re-enter the workforce (or even work part time), it may come up during the divorce that they were making much more money when they got married.

2. Different expectations about financial goals:

The old adage that opposites attract certainly seems to hold true, but being “opposite” is just a matter of a few degrees of separation. Two people do not have to be 180 degrees apart to view themselves as being opposite, so one person’s idea of saving may be their spouse’s idea of not saving enough and being a spendthrift. Later in the marriage, one of them may feel that spending is out of control, while the other may feel that their spouse is too controlling. During a divorce, arguments—about how the current financial situation was made worse by overspending or how a spouse’s control became unbearable—often resurface.

3. Different expectations about what each partner brings to the marriage:

When people married at younger ages, both parties brought their milk crate furniture to the marriage and probably little else. Now that couples have more time to accrue savings or debt before marriage, or if they are entering a second marriage later in life with much more savings or debt, what are the expectations about how these will be handled? It could be 20 to 25 years later when a couple decides that things are not working out, and then they have the challenge of trying to prove what each brought to the marriage and what happened to it over the years. The feeling of generosity at the beginning of their marriage may later turn into a feeling of being duped.

These are some reasons why couples who are soon to be married should talk about money in order to get off to a good start, but they may need a third party to facilitate these conversations, because they are not easy.

For advice on how to talk about money and financial arrangements with a future spouse, contact me at susan@smdtaxanddivorce.com.

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Susan A. Moussi, CPA, CFP®, CDFA
SMD Tax & Divorce Financial Planning Consultants, Inc.
Phone: 614.429.4172
susan@smdtaxanddivorce.com

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