Of the 1,010 married adults surveyed by Experian, 95 percent rated “financial responsibility” as more important than “physical attractiveness” (86 percent) and “career ambition” (77 percent).
Not that romance is dead: “Personal compatibility” was the most important attribute in a potential partner, ranking at 98 percent.
Financial compatibility is important, too; in fact, at 96 percent it edged out “sex and intimacy” (95 percent) and trounced “religion and spirituality” (69 percent). The thing is, plenty of people don’t talk about finances before they marry – and that’s a huge mistake.
This isn’t just a question of who pays which bills, folks. You’re yoking yourself to another person, ostensibly for life. Would you start a business with someone without asking a few questions?
Marriage is a business, according to Liz Weston. Those who ignore the legal and financial aspects of their unions are asking for trouble.
Before you say ‘I do’
Talking about finances isn’t simply a question of how many assets and/or debts you’re bringing to the partnership. You also need to discuss attitudes, goals and behaviors about money – and plenty of these don’t come out during the dating process.
For example, suppose you marry someone and then find out she fully expects to move to the suburbs within two years so that she can have three kids and she can be a full-time parent?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things. But perhaps you’re a city boy at heart and, having watched your friends deal with parenthood, figured that one kid would be enough to keep the two of you hopping.
And are you OK with the pressure of supporting a family of five on one salary? If not, the time to have discussed this was long before those wedding invitations were printed.
Shared goals, shared commitment
Those discussions shouldn’t stop after the honeymoon, by the way. A healthy majority (88 percent) of the adults in the Experian survey review shared financial goals each month. Personal finance experts call a “money date,” and it is a smart way to keep track of challenges and successes.
Think of it as a chance to check in, financially speaking. Even if one of you opts to be the Chief Financial Officer, the other one needs to be in the loop. As noted above, be sure to point out the good stuff (“Paid down another $350 in consumer debt!”) along with the dicier stuff (“We’re invited to three weddings this summer – can we really afford to go?”).
Turn off the TV and all electronic devices. Have a glass of wine, if that’s the sort of thing you enjoy. It also doesn’t hurt a bit to tell your spouse how swell s/he looks and how much you love him/her.
Talking about finances isn’t drudgery. It’s about respect. It’s about shared goals and shared commitment to those goals.
And apparently it’s pretty hot stuff – you’ll note that “financial compatibility” beat out “physical attractiveness” in that Experian survey. Makes sense to me. After all, you don’t spend most of your time in bed with the person you marry. You spend most of your time out of bed with that person.