Marriage is, for many people, the foundation of a happy life. But modern living puts pressure on us in so many ways, and money is often at the core. Finding a way to build trust and openness can be difficult. We all have complicated relationships with money, which begin in our childhoods and reflect our parents’ attitudes and beliefs. There are often hidden sensitivities and danger spots that neither partner is aware of – until something crops up that creates a problem.
In addition, it can be hard to navigate through all the things that Gen X and Gen Y will potentially face:
- Multiple careers, multiple 401(k)s
- Complex equity compensation
- Blended families
- Family wealth
- Moving to a new city or state
- Leaving the workforce
- Starting a business
Having a road map that begins with honest, structured conversations and allows each partner to weigh in on decision-making and feel heard can be the best way to build a long-term, respectful relationship.
The resulting document is called a prenuptial or pre-marital agreement. It was originally conceived to protect each partner throughout the marriage and simplify the proceedings in the event of a divorce.
There are still a lot of situations where a prenup is necessary. But even for couples without those factors, the process of being thoughtful about money and respectful of each other is a normal part a relationship. It can be a springboard to allowing each partner to build a professional life that satisfies them while also keeping the family and marital life on track.
The Basics – Situations (and People) Pre-Nups Are Designed to Protect
Blended families: Protecting children from previous relationships is often the first consideration of a prenuptial agreement. It may set aside funds for their future education or other needs, or protect existing financial obligations to children or an ex-spouse.
Protecting Existing and Created Wealth: The traditional view is that the prenup can protect the wealthier spouse – but that only works for existing wealth. Equity is increasingly part of the compensation package, and the potential for this type of compensation to suddenly be worth vast amounts of wealth – years after it was originally granted – has grown. Prenuptial agreements that protect both partners and spell out exactly what is included and what is not are becoming the norm.
One Partner Has More Debt: Debt is one of the most challenging aspects of joining finances. Existing debt can become the other partner’s responsibility, and debt incurred during the marriage may also be fair game for creditors. Prenuptial agreements can help clear the air, spark healthy conversations, and set clear boundaries that will help everyone feel protected.
Business Ownership: If you own your business, whether outright or with a partner, including it in a prenup can preserve the value, protect partners, and keep the business from becoming marital property as it grows in value during the marriage.
When the Choice is for One Partner to Forgo Work: If a couple decides that one partner will be putting a career on hold to undertake family-oriented duties, a prenup can help protect them. This can include annual contributions to an IRA, a life insurance policy, and other financial arrangements that allow the non-working spouse to create wealth on their own terms.
Clarify Non-Marital Assets: Inheritances are non-marital assets. However, they can be unintentionally converted. Putting money in joint accounts and titling real estate in both names can lead to the inheritance becoming a marital asset. A prenup can spell out non-marital property. p
The Bottom Line
Careers, families, our dreams and goals, and our desire to create a true partnership with someone else can all be accomplished – with the help of some honest conversation and then creating a prenuptial agreement that speaks to everyone’s best interest. It’s not a contingency plan for divorce – it’s a road map to a long and happy life.