Love can be a warm and wonderful feeling. In fact, it can be the best feeling in the world. But it can also cloud a person’s judgment. There’s the old expression, “the fog of war” to which could be added to “the fog of love”.
The problem with being married is that it comes with a lot more problems than does falling in love. Financial problems have sunk many a marriage. And these are problems that could have been ironed out or avoided if the couple had just taken the time to understand the other person’s finances. We know that sitting down and comparing financial statements is sort of the antithesis to being romantic but it is important.
Who you marry will have a big effect on the kind of house you buy (or even if you can buy a house) the kind of cars you will have, how much you’ll have in your savings account, the amount of debt you have and even your ability to pay for your future (or current) kids’ college education. This is why it’s important to develop a good understanding of your fiancé’s net worth, spending plan and credit score. Spoiler alert – if your fiancé pushes back when you try to talk about her or his personal finances this is definitely a bad sign.
That dreaded M talk
Like it or not before you say “I do” you do need to sit down with your betrothed and have the M or money talk. A good way to start the conversation is by sharing your goals. Are you on the same page when it comes to planning for retirement, educating your kids and buying a house? Second, it’s always good to admit your own mistakes. It will probably make it much easier for your fiancé to admit his or her mistakes if you first admit yours. For example, before you begin the M talk you might evaluate your own spending and figure out where you’ve been spending too much. Have you been spending too much on eating out or on clothing, which has been draining your finances? When you admit to having made financial mistakes like this it should make it easier for your fiancé to admit her or his mistakes, which is a good starting place to discuss how the two of you could do better.
If the two of you sit down and compare your checking account and credit card statements, you might find that what your spouse has been doing is so shocking that you want to gasp in dismay. Well, don’t. This is not the time to be judgmental because you’ll just put your intended on the defensive. Just review the numbers and try to isolate areas where the both of you could work to do better.
Finally, the two of you should make a list of your goals both in the short- and long-term. Then identify the ones you have in common so that you can agree to work towards achieving them.
Before you send out those wedding announcements
When you have the M talk you may actually uncover a “financial vampire” or a person that’s so lacking in self-discipline and money management skills that she or he could literally suck the life out of your financial future. If you just can’t have the M talk for some reason, there are clues that would help you avoid marrying a financial vampire.
The first sign of a financial vampire
Has your fiancé borrowed money from you or someone else on a consistent basis? Is she or he constantly running around trying to pay back people? You probably shouldn’t be loaning your fiancé much money in the first place. But if she or he fits this profile that’s a big red flag that your fiancé may actually be a freeloader or, worse yet, is always getting into messes financially and then expecting to borrow his or her way out of them. It’s one thing if you go to a movie with your fiancé and he suddenly finds he needs to borrow $10 to pay for the tickets but it’s quite another if he needs $100 to catch up on a utility bill. he may well be a financial vampire.
It’s not a big red flag if your spouse owes $5000 or so in credit card debts – so long as she or he has a plan for repaying them. If you find that there is no such plan, you’ll need to dig deeper. Why did your fiancé have so much debt? Was it due to a layoff or some other financial crisis or does your betrothed have a history of impulse buying with no thought as to how to the money will be paid back? There is actually such a thing as credit card junkies or people who are basically addicted to using their credit cards. One sign that your fiancé may be a credit card junkie is if she or he has to make a calculated decision as to which credit card to use when making a purchase. Another sign is if their wallet is just bulging with credit cards. And a really bad sign is if you ask how he or she plans to pay off those credit card debts and all you get in return is a blank stare.
Your fiancé has a champagne taste on a beer salary
What kind of a car does your fiancé drive? What does their home or apartment look like? How about their clothes? Do any of these seem out of sync with what they earn? If your fiancé’s lifestyle doesn’t match their income this could be a big red flag that he or she is living beyond their means. Unless you’re gifted with the philosophy of a saint you probably don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re working mostly to just pay off the debts of that financial vampire.