At any point in our lives, most of us have several questions about their personal finances but find it difficult to get them answered. Even knowing where exactly to turn and find critical information on money management is rarely clear. That's why almost anyone in charge of their own finances would probably benefit from a professional advisor or financial planner of some kind. However, making the move toward a professional partnership becomes more realistic - and necessary - at a crucial time in life: marriage.
"Financial problems tended to be a bigger predictor of marriage instability than others."
So much frustration in almost any close personal relationship is a result of differences in opinion - to put it mildly. That's true in marriage and other long-term domestic partnerships, too, but the precise reasons behind interpersonal fights might be more complicated than we assume. For example, a study published by the National Council on Family Relations carefully followed 100 married couples over a 15-day period, asking each pair to identify the source of any conflicts that simmered between them and their source.
The most common topics of spousal arguments might surprise some readers: Children, chores and communication were the top three most frequent topics of conflict, not finances as many might assume. However, the study also found that arguments about money tended to last longer and prove more difficult to resolve. In line with other studies on the subject, the report concluded that money conflict in a marriage tended to be among the most damaging to the relationship in general.
Why it pays to ask a pro
Even if finances aren't the single-biggest topic of discussion in any home, they might be among the most consequential. That's why many financial experts recommend couples seek out advice once they tie the knot, if not before. In discussion with several financial professionals on the topic, a Wall Street Journal article presented strong evidence that such services are now more useful than ever for recently married couples. More Americans are waiting longer to get married than previous generations, which also means more of them have accumulated significant financial assets by the time they settle down with a spouse.
"Financial professionals who offer premarital financial planning say they work with couples beyond the nitty-gritty details, such as who is going to pay the bills and whether the couple will pool their money or keep their accounts separate," according to The Wall Street Journal. "They're taking on a counseling role to help couples deal with the emotions that can complicate financial decisions—for instance, the stress that can strain a relationship when one partner tries to exercise too much monetary control."
In many cases, premarital financial advice is as practical as it is comforting - one professional said he considered himself equal parts psychologist and money manager in working with soon-to-be-married clients. However, most agreed that couples needed to go into these discussions prepared, particularly for the possibility that some uncomfortable secrets could emerge in the process.
"Couples should be willing to openly discuss their spending habits, assets, liabilities and financial goals," The Journal pointed out. "Only when people are open about how they feel can inevitable differences be addressed."
Once couples can set aside time to sit down and have these tough conversations, the hardest part of managing finances in marriage is over for the majority. But even if two spouses consider each other's financial history an open book and have discussed details at length, knowing what comes next presents an entirely different challenge. Look to a trusted financial advisor or wealth management professional to begin making sense of it all, now and well into the future.
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