Relationship expert and divorce attorney Vikki Ziegler shares her tips on how couples can avoid divorce by being open and honest about money matters.
Congratulations, you’re getting married! *Cue wedding bells* While it can be easy to get lost in venue booking, florist picking, and guest list making, there’s one thing you want to begin getting in order ASAP—your finances. With money being a major stressor for married couples, read on for the best practices for you and your partner in managing and merging your finances.
1. Get Naked
I don’t mean by taking off your clothes. You both need to sit down and “get naked” by becoming brutally honest about your financial history. I wrote my book “The Pre-Marital Planner to Stay Happily Married,” for exactly this purpose because no one wants to walk down the aisle and then find out their partner has 50k in student loan debt. Be transparent about anything that could affect your financial future such as your credit score, debt, etc.
2. Discuss Your Everyday Spending Habits
While you may feel certain that your partner isn’t hiding years of debt in your closet, a lot of people don’t really have a firm handle on their partner’s daily spending habits until after they merge their finances. It’s vital for a couple to be completely transparent about their daily/monthly budget. Your partner may think it’s fine to eat out for lunch every day while you bring lunch to work to save money. Being honest about these things means there won’t be surprises later when your mortgage payment is due.
3. Establish A Joint Account
More and more couples today are holding off on merging all of their finances right off the bat and are instead choosing to open a joint account when they are engaged. Each partner puts an allotted amount of money into a joint account and these funds are used to cover expenses like your rent, car payments, utilities, etc. Make sure to set a monthly budget so you can stay on track and maintain open communication about what you’re spending money on. Down the road if there’s talk of kids, consider merging fully.
4. Prepare an Emergency Fund
Sometimes, life throws you curveballs and unexpected expenses can drain your bank account. If one of you encounters a problem like injury or sickness, that person may not have the money on top of all their other expenses to add to your joint account. Putting aside a certain amount of money every month for an emergency fund gives you peace of mind that you can handle any adversity which could disrupt your finances.
Overall, communication and transparency are the two most important things when dealing with marital finances, especially if you’re going through a rough patch with money, which can take its toll on romance. By taking the proper financial precautions before saying “I do,” you’re already on your way to a healthy marriage—and hopefully staying out of the courtroom.
Plus, check out 3 Ways to Divorce-Proof your Marriage Before You Say “I Do.”
- Vikki S. Ziegler, Esq. is a practicing attorney of matrimonial law and civil litigation; a television personality known for her commentaries on high-profile cases; and the innovator of a unique and realistic approach to “divorce management.” Bringing together her insights as a divorce attorney, her childhood experience of her own parents’ divorce, and years of listening to clients and friends, Ziegler’s approach seeks to help couples avoid the pitfalls that can lead to divorce.