Ask any woman, especially one in a serious relationship who has visions of a poufy white dress dancing through her head, to name the three Cs, and she’ll likely rattle off the big three we all know and love: Color, Cut, and Clarity. After all, those are the three associated with diamonds and, consequently, with engagement rings. But as wedding season goes into full swing, there are three other C’s that should be brought up before you say, “I do.”
In his very insightful article in a 2012 issue of Forbes, financial expert Jeff Landers got down and dirty about finances in a marriage, boiling it down to his own three points that begin with C: Communication, Consideration, and Continuation. Unromantic as it may seem, finances are a huge issue—sometimes even an impassible hurdle—that all couples need to address when they make it official. But because it can pose such an uncomfortable topic, many people sweep it aside, assuming that it will all play out in the end. And it certainly does. Unfortunately, not always in a good way. If fact, for some couples, talking about finances can lead to arguments that bring a blissfully blind marriage to a screeching halt—which means that it makes sense to talk dollars and cents before your wedding day. “Discussing finances before you get married is very important, but many people have the wedding day planned down to the last detail without having a clue what their future spouse has inhis or her checkbook,” says financial advisor Ladonna Dowdy of Dowdy Financial Group in Clarksville. “Don’t be afraid to open that topic up to discussion, and start by sharing your own financial status—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Get it out there on the table, and hopefully your partner will do the same. If the partner isunwilling to do so, then you need to seriously rethink the marriage. More marriages fail because of finances than any other reason.”
Obviously, that first C is the big one. You need to sit down as a couple and communicate about your finances and all that that entails. That means being honest about your spending habits, your existing debts, all of it. You need to decide together how—and if—you want to combine your finances, as well. Some couples prefer to keep separate accounts, while others want to unite everything in a joint account. You also need to get your plans in order as far as financial support. Will you both be contributing to the household income, or do you want to have only one income as you grow your family? What are you each making now, and will that change anytime soon? These are all things that many couples tend to gloss over, but that gloss wears off when reality hits and you’re not just playing house.
C number two? Consideration. What you’re considering here are your financial options. Now that you’ve communicated about the big stuff, you have to think about whether or not it’s wise—or desirable—to combine your finances and assets. Some people take the pro-active route and sign a pre-nup so that, in the event of divorce, assets are divided in such a way as to be satisfying to both parties, and anything brought into the marriage can be defined and distributed properly. You’re both protecting yourself against the worst-case scenario, and that’s no small thing.
Last but not least is Continuation. What are you continuing? Financial independence. Even if you’re only hanging on to the bare minimum, it’s important to your own sense of security to know that you could still be somewhat financially stable if the marriage ended. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be fully employed throughout your marriage or keep fully separate bank accounts, but you will need to know that you have full access to your marital money; that you have fully-established credit on your own; and that you do have a bank account that’s solely in your name—even if that account only has enough money in it to keep your head above water for a few months on your own.
As you delve into the topic of finances, it’s important to remember the goal. You’re not trying to start an argument or criticize one another. You’re doing something that, in the long run, will help strengthen you as a team. You’re building your sense of security in one another and confirming your shared goals. And for any couple about to take that very important step of getting married, it’s a conversation you should seriously vow to hav