While he's not a professional marriage counselor, investor and author Kevin O'Leary knows about money and how it can impact a marriage. O'Leary, who is one of the stars of the television show Shark Tank, says that issues regarding money can strain and possibly doom a couple's marriage. The largest issue, he says, "is if one partner is willing to spend the other's money and has no regard for it."
Differing attitudes about money in general can cause problems for a couple in a serious relationship, and more so if they marry and combine their financial resources. One spouse may value saving while the other has a "You can't take it with you" attitude that can lead to overspending and significant debt.
Many people try to hide their spending and other financial information from their spouses because they fear it will cause conflict. However, this "financial infidelity" isn't healthy either. In a recent survey, nearly a third of respondents said they considered financial infidelity worse than adultery.
The key to preventing these conflicts, and to avoiding marrying someone who has a very different view of money than you do, is early communication. O'Leary says, "This is a problem you've got to nip in the bud, because it will lead to divorce with certainty, and often divorce with huge debts associated."
Key Questions to Ask
If a couple is getting serious, O'Leary says that they need to ask each other questions about their debt, what they spend money on and what kinds of things they want to save for. If you have children, will you be able to afford having one person out of the workforce for a time? If your partner wants things that will be beyond your combined ability to afford, that could signal a big problem ahead.
Being open and honest is essential to these conversations. Don't just tell your partner what you think he or she wants to hear. Be honest about what you want and be honest with yourself about whether you are comfortable with your partner's beliefs and goals.
O'Leary, who says that when he and his wife got married, they agreed to a frugal wedding where pizza and beer were served, asserts, "If you're both in sync on this you're going to stay in love a lot longer and probably be more financially successful."
Getting a prenuptial agreement is an excellent way for couples to codify their financial goals, to fully disclose their assets and debts going into the marriage and to lay out what will become marital assets and what will remain individual assets. Both partners should have their own family law attorney involved in this process.
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