This Tuesday is Valentine’s Day, and this morning, you have some financial advice related to love.
Mellody: Tomorrow is the holiday we celebrate love, and many people will be exchanging cards, chocolate, and some may even pop the question – or answer it! So today, I want to talk about some topics related to partners and finances, up to and including some tips for those who are getting ready for the big day soon, even if they do not know it yet!
That sounds great. Let’s start with those who are just starting a relationship. Credit scores are increasingly important to people even when they start dating.
It is an interesting trend we have seen gain traction in the wake of the financial crisis and with the rise of various kinds of debt. Two separate surveys – one from Lendingtree.com and one from Transunion – found that financial health matters when it comes to attractiveness. The Lendingtree survey noted that “both men and women alike said that a romantic partner seems more attractive when their income is significantly higher than their debt,” while the Transunion study found a quarter of Americans consider credit when gauging a potential partner’s attractiveness.
Now, this is no reason to skip the dating scene. But it is a reminder that good financial habits have many benefits! So, take a moment to make sure you are taking opportunities to improve your credit score. Check your credit report for errors. Pay your bills on time – set them to automatic pay, if possible. Pay down your credit card debt. Do this, and you will boost your credit, and potentially your dating life.
What about our listeners who are closing in on ‘I do’, and thinking about joint finances?
Getting married is a huge life event, and therefore a huge financial event. Before getting married, there are a few things that every couple needs to do to make sure their relationship starts out on firm financial footing.
First things first: you need to be honest about both parties’ finances. Most couples don’t talk about money issues until late in the game, and that is a mistake. It is important to know your partner’s financial practices and background. Outstanding debts or past mistakes will affect what you can do together in the future, like buying a house or a car. And remember, after you marry, every asset either of you acquires is jointly held. All the more reason you need to be honest.
Once you have done this, you can build a joint strategy for your money, and outline what your shared financial responsibilities and goals are. You should be equals when it comes to your finances, meaning you should be involved in the money management. Both of you need to know and understand the decisions being made, inflows and outflows, and the status of accounts.
As a part of this, develop a joint budget: determine how each person will contribute to living expenses and other joint costs ahead of time. None of this is to say that all of your finances must be joint – they don’t need to be totally merged. But in terms of your shared financial obligations and goals, you need to be open, honest, and have a plan.
Once a couple sets a date, what should they be thinking about before the big day?
Before the wedding, you should make sure you do your paperwork. Let me say this again: have everything in writing! We see it all the time: couples are on cloud nine and thinking nothing will ever happen, put off the paperwork that surrounds assets and money, and it comes back to bite them later.
I know it is not romantic, it is not fun, and it can be contentious. But it is very important. Getting things in writing includes concluding prenuptial agreements – which clearly specify assets acquired prior to your wedding – or living trusts and wills that determine where assets go in the event of accidents and emergencies. No one likes to consider the possibility that their relationship may not last, but some don’t. And having everything in writing ahead of time will benefit you either way.