If you haven’t read my post, “Is Marriage Worth It“, you may want to back up and read that first. But if you are ready to give marriage a shot, you need to consider the legal and economic compatibility of your relationship as well. After all, love is just one ingredient of the relationship and can quickly dissolve if you are not prepared for the financial and legal implications of marriage.
Although it may seem difficult to broach these issues, if your partner is not ready to discuss them, red flags should be going off for you. Here five questions and issues that are imperative that you discuss with your partner before making the decision to get married:
- How long do you plan to work after we get married? – Although your partner may work now, a lot of women will decide that they are comfortable with the higher earning spouse (you) to work after you get married so they can explore “hobbies” and “interests”. You should find out immediately if your partner is planning to put the financial burden of the relationship largely on you. Remember, when you get married, if you are in a community property state, your wife will own 50% of everything you earn after marriage and then some. A working spouse can absorb some of the financial responsibility and share in the risk if there is a divorce.
- I plan to keep my pre-marital earnings (and property) in a separate trust, are you OK with that? – If you live in separate property state, your property and earnings before marriage are solely yours and cannot be claimed by your future ex-wife. However, if you co-mingle your assets, you are going to have a hard time separating separate property. So, it is important to have your own accounts and possibly even consider setting up a trust that puts your separate property out of the reach of your wife. More on this later.
- Do you want to have kids, how many would we be OK with? – Many married couples do not have children these days. But if you are going to have kids, you need to figure out how to financially plan for that and further have an understanding if your wife will work and contribute to the upbringing of your children. If you decide to have children you should figure out out to combine joint income to take care of them so that the burden does not fall solely on you. You also want to figure out how many kids you can realistically afford.
- Are you ok if I do not work for some period of time to explore other opportunities and careers? – One of the most difficult thing for Men is to be unemployed. But let’s face it. There are times between jobs or at certain jobs when you know you might be leaving that you may need to contemplate further education or other opportunities. If you are going to be working and taking care of your wife, she also needs to reciprocate and take care of you if you are going through a transition. Some women will begin resenting their men if they are not working. That is a red flag.
- Let’s sign a pre-marital agreement (pre-nuptial); are you OK with that? – This is probably the toughest question to ask, but a necessary one if you have substantial assets and earning power. After all, marriage is a legal contract under the laws of a state, so why should you not be able to contract your life and property with your partner on your own accord. A pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement will protect your earnings and assets by allowing you to separate out income and property when you are married so that your ex-wife cannot take advantage of the unfair divorce laws to ruin you in the future. Let’s face it, many marriages, over 50% end in divorce. Why take that risk?