As tempting as it may sound to some, few people marry for money. But after the point when a marriage has failed, there is frequently remorse over the financial issues that were not properly addressed prior to tying the knot.
The first step is an open and fully disclosed conversation about each other’s financial status. This would include details about earnings, assets, liabilities and your financial plan for the future. It’s no fun to find out after the fact that you won’t own a home for 10 years because your spouse is loaded up with personal and educational loans.
A bigger picture discussion about where you want to go as a couple, and what you are going to do to get there would prevent this. For example, if your vision is to raise a family in a nice neighborhood and have a second home at the beach you’ll need a financial road map to get you there. If your spouse thinks a two family house with a very low net cost of living is ideal so you can retire early, there will be problems down the road.
Get a good understanding of each other’s vision for what your ideal lifestyle will include and then map it out to see how much you’ll need to earn and save to get to your desired place.
A conversation about your family is also important. This conversation can span both sides of the wealth spectrum. On the one hand, your spouse may know that there will be a time when an elderly parent will need either financial or physical assistance. Wouldn’t you like to know in advance if your mother-in-law is likely to be living with you at some future point?
On the other hand, there may be substantial family assets or a family business that will eventually flow to one of the soon-to-be newlyweds.
These too are issues often left dormant until later in life when a problem arises and it may be too late. We have all heard the stories of a wonderful family business that suffered major disruption or even failure over an inheritance or divorce.
Make sure that the inherited assets are properly structured to provide protection to the newlyweds against the obvious potential perils of divorce or bad health. Make sure that your business succession and estate plan says and does more than simply leave all of your assets equally to all of your adult children, whether they work in that business or not. If the business is to be shared amongst children, make sure it is clear who does what and clearly spell out the rights and benefits of ownership to each shareholder.
If all of this simply gives you a headache and encourages a postponement of the marriage – lighten up. This is exactly why lawyers created prenuptial agreements. Get help before it is too late.
John P. Napolitano CFP, CPA is CEO of U. S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass. Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or uswealthnapolitano.com. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. US Financial Advisors and US Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial. He can be reached at 781-849-9200.