Valentine’s Day is here - a time where candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St.Valentine. It’s a day, February 14th to be exact, where we choose any of the mentioned gestures to validate our love for one another.
But is a box of chocolates and flowers true validation? Or is there something more powerful?
Love takes effort and while a box of chocolate may seem sweet (pun intended), love isn’t so simple. Love requires communication, sharing responsibilities, care, and some sacrifice.
With that, communicating on topics that aren’t the most desirable is something that needs to happen, finances being one them. Talking finances is crucial when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship. And at this moment in time, finances is considered a hot topic. You can thank the Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos divorce story you have probably heard about every day since the news broke.
It’s funny how when things are great in a relationship, we tend to stray away from controversial topics such as money management but when the talk of divorce looms, money is at top of mind. But we need to be talking about our finances way before this could potentially happen.
Last year, one of my friends who is a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley invited me to an event called, “Love and Money.??? I thought it was one of the many female empowering sessions where they would talk about the independence of women; however, this session was a tad bit different.
The session started with about 25 women in the room contributing various stories regarding financial conversations they may or may not have had with their spouses. A major touch point during these narratives was that failing to converse with their significant other on their finances ended up hurting the relationship and ultimately, themselves.
One woman in the room said she was married to a rich husband. Which in theory it could sound great. After all, he was older (much older) and he was successful. However, over the times of the marriage, he ultimately hit the age where he could no longer work and because of that, they were no longer able to sustain their lifestyle due to his discontinued paycheck.
One of the major issues they had faced was their mortgage payment. With that, they ended up selling their lifetime home under market value and in the end got divorced. Her biggest regret? She wished that she had finance conversations earlier on in her relationship with her ex-husband as it may have prevented this situation.
Another woman brought up a similar experience but her story was even more shocking. After her divorce, she couldn’t even go grocery shopping because she did not have a single credit card under her name during the marriage. Every finance document was under her husband’s name, with that, she failed to accumulate any type of credit to apply for her own credit cards after the divorce. Her biggest regret was also failing to have earlier finance conversations and keeping records of herself, her kids, and as a couple to protect her marriage and life.
The “Love and Money??? event concluded with a lecture on the importance of:
organization and preparation of financial documents
the information these documents provide
and the importance of sharing these documents within the couple
To write this blog, I interviewed various men and women to research the finance conversation in their relationships. What I found was that most couples don’t usually talk finances and if they did, the reason they talked about their finances was that they were married young and had to share their bank accounts in order to live together.
In addition to that, I also found that if they could talk about their finances earlier in their marriages or in their relationships, they claim it would have been easier to exchange their financial situations and/or information.
I also spoke to my dear guy friend who mentioned that he has full control over his family’s finances which had become concerning. The reason for his concern is that in the event that something were to happen to him, his wife would have no knowledge of how to access funds to raise their child.
So, how do we talk about money? What questions do we ask?
Below are some questions to get the conversation going with your significant other. As you both gather your answers, you can start organizing the information and documents.
How much money we each have? How much debt we each have?
Where all the money is? What banks? Who is the financial advisor if you have one?
What bank are we borrowing the debt from (student loan, mortgage), then how much and how long?
What are the passwords for banks, investment accounts?
Do we have a trust? Shall we set up a trust together?
How do we pass the wealth to our kids? Shall we set up a will? If you have one, where is the will?
Over accumulated time, this habit of organization will help you and your spouse’s financial life much healthier and stronger.
Lastly, seek more help. Don’t be afraid to research more on investments and organizing tools such as vault solutions, financial advisors, or even HR financial wellness programs.
Love takes effort; sharing responsibilities, care, and some sacrifice. Finance should not be one person’s burden or responsibility. Show your love by sharing responsibilities, when you realize this, you need more than the chocolate on Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
YoonJin Chang is the Co-Founder of LifeSite a company which provides an ultra-secure, cloud-based digital vault for individuals, families, and their advisors to organize, manage and share information and documents. The solution guides users with easy prompts for entering and organizing information across all aspects of life; including personal, people, online accounts, health, finance, and legacy information. Family members or loved ones can access and share key personal information anywhere, anytime the need arises. www.lifesite.co