By Teneshia “Miss Money Sense” LaFaye
On Jan. 6, same-sex couples will finally be able to legally get married in all 67 counties in the state of Florida. Being in a monogamous, openly lesbian relationship, I’m ecstatic that gays, lesbians, transgenders and bisexuals can now tie the knot in my home state.
However, gay or straight, just because you can get married doesn’t mean you should rush into it, especially if one of you is struggling in your finances. Money is among the top reasons that married couples argue and divorce. So even though you’re in love and you have the legal right to marry, you should wait until you have sat down with your partner to address the following regarding your finances:
1) Talk to your mate about his or her ideology regarding money. Is your partner more of a spender or a saver? If the person is a spender, he or she may have a hard time creating and keeping a budget and may have out-of-control credit card debt. If the person is a saver, he or she is likely to be financially stable to back up his or her partner after a financial mistake. But it isn’t fair for one partner to always have to cover for the other’s foolish spending habits, and eventually the responsible partner may resent his or her mate.
2) Let each other know your incomes and financial obligations to create a budget together because you wouldn’t want to find out after the marriage vows that your partner is struggling to make ends meet and then you are pressured to overcompensate with your income. Add up both of your take-home incomes and your bills/expenses, and then divide the bills into your total income to figure out the percentage of each of your paychecks should go into a household checking account to pay the bills. For instance, if your total bills are $4,000 and your combined take-home income is $5,000, 80% of each of your paychecks should be deposited into a household account to pay the bills. The other 20% could be used however each of you wishes or you could decide to use some of it toward a mutual savings goal. But make sure each of you keeps some money for yourself as an allowance and for your own personal goals. If there is a deficit, you should hold off on getting married until the one who is overextended finds a permanent way to make up for the short fall, such as paying off debt or getting a higher-paying job. Or you can put your heads together to slash unnecessary spending in order to make ends meet.
3) Decide who will pay the bills from the household checking account, but make sure both of you have access to the account. The responsible mate should probably pay the bills, or the spender could pay the bills in order to stay aware of the household finances and the responsible one can perform checks and balances to make sure the bills are being paid.
4) Pull each other’s credit reports for free on www.annualcreditreport.com or www.creditkarma.com. Although you can’t be held responsible for any debt your partner brings into a marriage, you still should be aware of your partner’s debt. It could effect your financial goals, such as saving for and financing a home, if your partner has a poor credit score or is loaded down with $50,000 in credit card debt or $80,000 in student loans. And if your partner is swimming in debt and you don’t offer to save him or her from drowning, your partner may view you as being selfish and start to resent you. So hold off on the marriage until your partner is properly managing his or her debt and the balance has decreased into your comfort zone.
5) Talk about important lifestyle choices that will affect your finances, such as whether you want to buy a home or rent, the kind of home you want, if and when you can afford to have children and how long you would stay home with a baby and where you want to live now and in the future. It would suck if you always envisioned living in the country or on the beach and your partner craves the big-city life.
6) As a bonus, meet with a highly recommended financial adviser to help determine financial goals, such as retirement planning, and to make sure you own life insurance on each other so the household can still be run while the surviving spouse grieves and seeks additional income to compensate for the loss of a partner. This will make it less likely the grieving spouse quickly remarries to have someone help with the bills, which wouldn’t be wise.
If you’re uncomfortable having an in-depth financial talk up with your mate, you should consider it a sign that you should hold off on marriage. It’s better to wait than to rush because you will likely argue about money and divorce over it. I’ve been there done that with my first marriage and have no intention of repeating the same mistake by failing to prepare financially for my next nuptials. She and I agree to holding off until our finances and desired living arrangements are intact.
Teneshia LaFaye is a former award-winning newspaper journalist and a nationally certified financial education instructor. She owns a health insurance agency and has written two books, What My Mom Taught Me About Money and Mom’s Money Lessons, available on her web site www.mytensense.com. Get her FREE daily money tips to work on improving your financial mindset by “liking” her MissMoneySense page on Facebook.