For the Love of Money: Wealth management for couples
Ahhh… Valentine’s Day. An evolution from animal sacrifices to diamonds and flowers. The holiday itself isn’t the only thing related to love that has evolved, however. Thoughts and opinions on wealth management for couples has also evolved.
Call me unromantic (and that’s ok) but when I think of blossoming love, my pragmatic brain thinks of all the wealth management issues that newly engaged and newly married people face. A lot of things must happen when two people merge their assets and their lives. Nobody really likes to talk about the high interest credit card they meant to pay off long ago, or the idea of when and where to buy a house and who pays for what… especially on the very first date, or early in relationship. This doesn’t mean you should wait until your partner pops the question and then whip out your library of credit cards and student loans, either.
There’s a time and place to discuss relationship finances
Unromantic me says there is a time and place for these things. A local financial advisor or attorney can counsel couples on these issues to help find a reasonable solution each party can live with — even if they don’t agree on everything financially related.
Don’t be the person who is completely uninterested in the financial affairs of your relationship.
Make sure your significant other gives you the low-down on what bills you have, when they are due, and what the interest rates are. If something goes south in the relationship or your partner becomes incapacitated, you need to be able to step up.
Think about a prenuptial agreement if you have assets you wish to protect.
Enough said. Just trust me on this one. Or call me for lunch, and we can relive all the horror stories I’ve encountered in the last 24 years.
Talk to an estate planning attorney about how your assets should be titled, and what happens on death.
Your attorney can guide you on Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogates, and Wills and Trusts. Make sure your attorney as well as your significant other also understand your gifting desires, and how you want your end of life needs met. Be specific on your distributions of your wealth at death as well.
Update your beneficiaries on retirement plans and life insurance policies.
You certainly don’t want fiancé #3 as your beneficiary when you finally find Mr. or Mrs. Right.
Be flexible in your financial planning.
As children (or pets) come into the mix along with a growing portfolio of assets, financial flexibility between you and your partner will become increasingly important. I asked Jimmy Waller of Waller Insurance Partners what he recommended:
“Have a realistic conversation about risk management that includes consulting a professional to find out if your homeowners and auto carriers are reputable, if your limits are adequate, and consider consolidating all your homeowners and care insurance for multi-policy discounts. Let a professional crunch the numbers regarding life insurance and umbrella policies as well,” he said.
Oh yeah, Valentine’s Day. Here’s a tip — after you’ve taken care of the necessities of your relationship from a financial
standpoint (to quote Men’s Health magazine):
“Don’t go too crazy on Valentine’s Day. Every year you’ll be expected to top last year’s gift. Pace yourself.”
…and please don’t ask me why I am reading Men’s Health Magazine…