What is your relationship with money? This may sound like an off-the-wall question, but consider it for a moment.
Some people are relaxed with money, and have a good system of managing it that works well for them. They keep their spending reasonable, maintain careful records of what they do spend, and as a result, have enough to pay all their bills on time every month. Others are clearly uncomfortable about money, and they can be very guarded and secretive whenever the topic comes up. They are unsure about how to manage money effectively, yet are unwilling to ask for advice or read a book to help them make it easier to do this.
Which side of the money comfort scale are you on? The more relaxed side, or the frantic, Id-rather-not-think-about-it side? Famous comedian Bill Cosby once said "Ive been poor and Ive been rich, and rich is better." You may not have a six-figure income or higher, but having a relaxed frame-of-mind about money certainly beats being nervous and in a constant state of anxiety over it. Having spent time being both nervous and relaxed about money, I can honestly tell you, relaxed is better.
Lets assume for now that your financial outlook is relaxed and healthy. You track your spending carefully, and you arent carrying a high amount of debt, if you have any at all. How eager would you be, with a good financial outlook going for you, to get involved with a partner who is your total opposite where money is concerned? How much would you enjoy being with a partner who has no system for managing money, who spends it like water, who never seems to have cash, but a large inventory of plastic (and a hidden pile of debt)? My guess: not much. Yet many people end up dating and even marrying partners who are, to a small or large degree, irresponsible with money. And in many cases, end up getting divorced over severe money problems.
Can you guarantee that youll never cross paths with someone who doesnt consider good money management important? Of course not. However, you can avoid marrying such a person by being aware of a potential mates spending habits. If he or she pulls out plastic for every purchase, and has credit cards for all the major stores, its a strong possibility this person is carrying a higher debt load than you may be comfortable with. Look around; you might also notice an expensive car probably bought on lease or a high-ticket entertainment system on the premises. What is your partners home like? Does it look like something within your partners means? If the home is a large, expensive one, and you know your partners salary doesnt pay nearly enough to afford the rent or mortgage payments, thats a huge red flag right there. Of course, there is the possibility that it is an inherited property. But do yourself a favor; make sure of this before deciding to marry this person.
The following three scenarios are fictitious money dilemmas that couples may have before marriage. Look at each one, and ask yourself and your partner what your individual feelings are on each situation. The names are fictitious as well.
Scenario #1: Arthur and Andrea are planning to get married within the year. Before the wedding takes place, Arthur receives a significant and unexpected windfall of $80,000. They both agree to purchase a home, but Arthur tells Andrea that since the money is his, so is the investment on the home. He will not put her name on the deed, citing that if the marriage doesn't work out, she will not be able to put any claim on it. If you were Andrea, would you still want to marry Arthur?
Scenario #2: Bob and Becky agree that they want to raise a family of two children. Becky intends to go back to work after the kids are in school for a full day, but Bob insists that she be a stay-home wife and mom after the first child arrives. Becky says she could agree to that, if Bob will help her out financially, so she can run her own home business. Bob refuses, saying she only needs to do her "job" as a wife and mother, and that she doesn't need additional funds.
Bob's refusal to accept a compromise on this issue would mean Becky would be entirely dependent upon him for any money for herself and the children if she married him. Is marriage to a money controller what YOU would want?
Scenario #3: Clarence has a thriving successful business, a son from a previous marriage, and a substantial bank account with seven figures. Claire has worked in a series of low-paying jobs, and is excited by the prospect of marrying a wealthy man. She and Clarence have been dating only a few months, but he asked her to marry him anyway. Shortly before the wedding, Clarence tells her that he has set up a large trust account for his son when he turns twenty-one. He has made a will giving his son the majority of his estate should Clarence die unexpectedly. He has also asked his attorney to draw up a pre-nuptual agreement, which would give Claire a generous settlement in the event of a divorce, but nothing beyond that.
Claire, hearing of this, is furious at being asked to sign the document, despite the fact it would hardly leave her penniless. She had set her sights much higher. Her rage strikes Clarence as out of control and makes him suddenly uneasy. Without explanation, he calls off the wedding and ends their relationship. Given her violent response to a reasonable request, do you believe Clarence was being paranoid, or simply prudent?
These are just three hypothetical situations about the various types of money dilemmas that can plague relationships. There are quite a few of them out there, if you stop and think about it. What money issues or conflicts do you have in your relationship, if youre dating someone right now? What views does he (or she) have that could lead to serious marital trouble down the road? Failing to address these problems or ignoring them, expecting that marriage alone will resolve them, is a ticking financial time bomb. The only unanswered question here is when it will explode. It may be a few months or a few years. Rest assured, it will happen, and probably when you least expect it.