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Talk The Finance Talk Before Walking The Commitment Walk

Jan 8, 2008
It's easy to get swept up in the romance of the holidays and the joy of being with the one you love. For all those couples who will become engaged during this season and even through early next year, there's more to consider about making a lifetime commitment than ring sizes and wedding details. To set yourselves up for a lifetime of success, you need financial guidance to prepare you for financial issues you'll face during marriage.

It may not seem like it's as much fun as selecting honeymoon destinations and tasting cakes, but coming together on financial issues before you come together as husband and wife is crucial to mapping your future. You have to know how and be willing to deal with the bottom line, both literally and figuratively. All couples will eventually face some kind of financial challenge or life-altering decision regarding money. No one is immune, no matter how healthy their bank accounts are.

Think about it. How many couples do you know who have struggled with finances and even divorced over them? To protect yourselves from joining the statistics of those who split over money, you have to learn how to discuss finances openly and honestly with your soon-to-be spouse.

Money is generally considered a taboo topic. It's not something discussed in polite conversation, according to our social norms. But your future spouse is a crucial exception to this unwritten rule. Maybe you don't know where to start. Or maybe you are like me and are embarrassed about how you have handled your finances in the past. Maybe you have bad credit; your spouse deserves to know because your rating can affect his.

There are countless reasons to avoid the topic, but you have one very vital incentive to broach the subject: Your marriage's stability may very well depend on your ability to talk these things out. Communication is the foundation of handling financial issues, as well as any other challenges you'll face as a team.

When I think back in my own family and friends, I know of several who would have benefited from guidance from a counselor who was also a financial expert. If they had someone outside of their immediate circle of friends considering their best financial interests, someone who provided an unbiased opinion, they would more than likely be together today.

I recently interviewed Sherry Julius, a woman whose first marriage ended in divorce mostly due to money problems. She told me that if she'd entered that marriage with the financial know-how and communication skills covered in my new program, "The Debt Stops at the Altar," she thinks things might have worked out differently. She said she would've known what to do when money crises arose and how to work with her partner to get through them rather than fight her way out. Sherry said, "I know for myself, this is going to help so many couples, because it is helping me even in my second marriage."

Whether this is your first marriage or you have been married 20 years, financial challenges arise at different stages. Your emotions can cloud your judgment in difficult situations, especially if things center on the person you love most. Let me share this: When we make decisions based on emotions, it often leads to further damage and conflict. We usually do not see the long term clearly or take the time to consider the consequences of our actions when our emotions are too strong. We just act out of pain, frustration and sometimes even pressure. That starts a vicious cycle of further pain and frustration.

Take the time to consider the relationship you want, the marriage you want for a lifetime and how you're going to create that. If you are getting 30 minutes or one hour of counseling on finances during pre-marital counseling, unless you're a financial professional, that's probably not enough. You need more to protect your marriage and foster a healthy dialog with your spouse over a topic that causes strife and stress for so many of us.

Don't take the risk of setting your marriage up to fall into those statistics of marriages that fail because of money. Set yourself apart from those ugly numbers by taking control of your finances and the way you and your partner relate to each other through mature, healthy lines of communication.

Financial challenges have no boundaries. I know of many couples, myself and my husband included, who have weathered many financial challenges during the first year of marriage. If you are not communicating about finances before you enter into marriage, these very challenges can tear your marriage apart. But with a little preparation and a lot of honest discussion, you can and will have the strong, loving bond that will last a lifetime. Communication about finances is the first step.
About the Author
Taffy Wagner, DMin, is a personal finances expert, speaker and ordained minister. She is the creator of The Debt Stops At The Altar gift package. She has been interviewed on Your Wedding TV and numerous radio shows. You may contact her through her website at http://www.DebtAtTheAltar.com .
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