When does a couple become one unit instead of two entities? Is it when they finally decide to cohabitate? No. Is it when two people exchange rings, and both take the vow of marriage? No, not even.
Most people think it’s either one of these, but in my experience so far, it’s when you both decide to see a financial planner together.
When you get married, you can plan on loving and cherishing each other, in sickness and health, till death do you part. But until you’re both sitting in a conference room with a view of the Dallas skyline in the background while a guy in a suit watches you both commit to each other’s financial well-being in both the present and future, you have no idea what it means to be part of a “we.”
Such is the case with Craig and me.
What’s Mine is Yours
Last week Craig and I met with our new financial planner Evan for the first time. After a brief courtship that comprised of a couple of phone calls and some emails, we finally decided to take the leap and go all in. We were ready to take a peek at our financial picture and start planning our future together.
We made it through the first step of the process, which was for Craig and me to come to a consensus about seeing a financial planner. That was the easy part. We both have similar views of what we want our ideal future to look like, and we both have similar opinions on money. The second step was to go through a complete financial analysis. It would help us understand what our current financial picture looks like compared to our goals.
Part of the process was filling out an extensive questionnaire. We answered questions about our fears, our short-term, and mid-term goals, and philosophical questions that post hypothetical situations about money. These questions were thought-provoking. It gave us some discussion points about topics we never really considered talking about before.
As we were filling out the questionnaire, all of the responses I typed out began with “we.” We wish this; we’re afraid of that… suddenly I began to realize my financial decisions were no longer mine; they were ours. It was a startling revelation, one that I mildly resented at first. However, the more I wrote it, the more I began to accept it.
I began to wonder if all other married couples went through this exercise. If not, is that why the divorce rate is so high?
Couples Who Finance Together, Stay Together
Financial incompatibility is frequently named as one of the most common reasons for divorce in the United States. It’s easy to forget that our decisions, no matter how small they are, can ultimately have an impact on our spouse.
This exercise is proving to be a positive step in the right direction. Planning our future also means planning our inevitable death which, hopefully, will be far into the future. It’s forcing us to evaluate our current record-keeping system, our various insurance policies and coverage, and our estate plans. Some people find this process uncomfortable, but I find it logical and therefore right. To avoid it means to avoid one of life’s only certainties.
And now let me pose this question to you: when did you address the subject of financial compatibility? When did you discuss the subject of death and your legacy? Were any of these discussions before or after marriage?