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How to Talk Money: Money & Marriage

Tip: Money is the number one culprit in marital misunderstandings. Talking frankly about financial matters before and during marriage helps forge a lasting union.

Money measures wealth, but it is also a metaphor for important building blocks of equality in marriage security, love, power, freedom. How you feel about money is more important than how much you have.

"Marriage brings to light special financial hopes, dreams and fears," says Susan Piver, author of The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask the One You Love. "It is vitally important to be conscious and clear about your expectations."

For those getting married, talking about money may seem unromantic. However, open communication and honesty are truly the building blocks of strong partnerships. Talk about money matter-of-factly and privately. Make a date with your prospective spouse to discuss how you are going to handle your financial affairs. You might bring along a picnic lunch for a romantic touch, but also bring along detailed information to help you make decisions. Take notes. Your initial discussions will help out your attorneys in drawing up a formal pre-nuptial or marriage contract, outlining your wishes.

Remember to discuss health and life insurance, attitudes towards savings and debt, existing financial obligations, housing, education costs that would require sacrifices, changes that would come should one of you become a stay-at-home parent. The topics are hardly pillow talk, but sharing some answers should make you sleep better now and after your marriage.

Susan Piver suggests you assess where you are now and where you want to be in a year or five or 10 years. Here are some of the questions she believes will make talking about money easier:

  1. How much money do we earn together and how do we want to spend it?

  2. Are we going to keep our money separate or pool it?

  3. How much do we have in the bank or in the market?

  4. How much money does each of us need to feel secure?

  5. How much will we save and where will we put that money?

  6. What kinds of purchases must we agree on?

  7. Who keeps the household books and pays bills?

  8. Who will handle long-range financial planning?

  9. What do we do about life and medical insurance?

  10. If we are entering the marriage with responsibilities for parents or children, how will those responsibilities be handled?

But don###t stop there. We suggest you also ask:

  1. If our marriage ends in divorce, do we agree to divide all marital assets on a 50-50 basis?

  2. If one of us became a stay-at-home spouse, would we consider the contribution of the stay-at-home spouse equal to that of the one earning a wage?

  3. How do we define "equality" in terms of finances and responsibilities in our marriage?

  4. Do we agree that certain individual assets either of us acquired before our marriage should be excluded from our combined marital assets?

  5. Do we know the benefits each of us has through our employment and if spouses are included?

  6. Do we know what each of us has in stocks, retirement benefits or other bonuses and how such assets would be distributed in case of death or divorce?

  7. Are we going to have a separate account for household expenses? Or will each of use contribute a portion from our incomes?

  8. How do we feel about either of us having separate saving, checking or stock accounts?

  9. How will we decide what to do when we have a financial bonanza or crisis?

  10. How can we make sure that each of us is prepared to handle finances in case of serious illness, death or divorce?

To read more on Susan Piver###s book, visitwww.thehardquestions.com.

Article courtesy of The Equality in Marriage Institute, which describes itself as a leader in promoting marriage as an emotional, legal and financial partnership of equals that must be defined and maintained. The institute provides information, resources and support to women and men before, during and after marriage at http://www.equalityinmarriage.org/d/News/headlines.html , or write to info@equalityinmarriage.org.