Romance and Finance: Smart Tips for Couples

Empyrion Wealth Romance and Finance

Discussing marital finances may not seem like the most romantic Valentine’s Day conversation, but poor communication around money can certainly suck all the vitality out of what may have once been a loving relationship. Especially for two-income couples and those with more complex financial situations, it’s important to communicate clearly, particularly concerning matters like marital property vs. separate property, debt and the responsibility for paying it, joint tax liability, and other financial issues that arise in many marriages.

Even if you don’t live in a community property state, it’s important to be clear on the difference between joint marital property and separate property. Most assets acquired during a marriage are legally considered to be equally owned by both spouses, even if one spouse earns a disproportionate amount of the household income. On the flipside, debt accumulated during a marriage is generally considered to be the joint responsibility of both spouses. For these reasons, if no other, couples owe it to each other to practice open communication about household income and expenses.

Separate property, on the other hand, encompasses assets that are owned by only one spouse. Typically, these would be assets acquired before the marriage or an inheritance received during the marriage. Often, those going into a marriage with significant assets are well advised to use a pre-nuptial agreement that specifies the understanding of both partners that certain property held by one spouse is not joint or community property.

For those with separate property, it’s important to maintain separation between those assets and marital assets. For example, if one spouse inherits an investment account that pays interest and dividends, the earnings from the account should be deposited in a separate account; they should not be deposited in an account holding jointly owned funds. Doing so could create the appearance of commingling of the assets, which could potentially lead to the inherited funds being declared community property.

It is common for one or the other partner in a marriage to be the “money person.” That’s fine, but it is still crucial for the other spouse to have at least a working knowledge of household income, bills that have to be paid, and other day-to-day financial matters. If there is separate property owned by one spouse or the other, this should be thoroughly discussed and understood.

Very frequently, as I work with women in transition — both those going through divorce and those recently widowed — I face the need to help them come to grips with some harsh financial realities that could have been so much easier if they had been better informed during their marriages. This is also true of family stewards who are trying to guide children going out on their own or, more often, to assist aging parents with getting a handle on their finances.

If you really love someone, you owe it to them to have open, clear discussion about household financial matters. And if you’re the one in the dark, you owe it to your partner to start asking questions and listening carefully to the answers. Honest communication is your best ticket to lots of happy Valentine’s Days in the future.

Stay Diversified, Stay YOUR Course!

Empyrion Wealth Management (“Empyrion”) is an investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Information pertaining to Empyrion’s advisory operations, services and fees is set forth in Empyrion’s current Form ADV Part 2A brochure, copies of which are available upon request at no cost or at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov. The views expressed by the author are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Empyrion. The information contained in any third-party resource cited herein is not owned or controlled by Empyrion, and Empyrion does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of any information that may be found in such resources. Links to any third-party resource are provided as a courtesy for reference only and are not intended to be, and do not act as, an endorsement by Empyrion of the third party or any of its content. The standard information provided in this blog is for general purposes only and should not be construed as, or used as a substitute for, financial, investment or other professional advice. If you have questions regarding your financial situation, you should consult your financial planner or investment advisor.

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