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The Moneyist: ‘We can practically finish each other’s sentences’: I’m getting married in 2023. I want a prenup. She wants to merge our finances. What’s my next move?

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Dear Quentin,

My girlfriend and I have been dating for nearly five years. We’re getting married in 2023. I have a large sum of money so I’d like to get a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot. The agreement would consist of cash, bonds, stocks, an SUV and tangible property. 

We discussed this a couple of years ago, but that’s it. How long before getting married should I start this process? I’m also concerned that she may get offended even though she didn’t seem offended when we talked about it previously. 

She also wants to combine our money, which makes me very nervous. I’ve been married once before, but never in my 50 years of life have I ever shared checking/savings accounts. She is a very sweet lady and we are on the same wavelength 99% of the time. 

We can practically finish each other’s sentences. Any and all advice is much appreciated.  

Sincerely,

Lost in Ohio

Dear Lost in Ohio,

If you can finish each other’s sentences, here’s one to try in unison: “Given our earlier conversation about a prenup, combining our savings and checking accounts would be a very…”

“…bad idea.” Correct!

If the end of this sentence comes as a surprise, you are right in thinking that the prenup conversation was not taken to heart. The time to talk about such matters is when the subject of marriage comes up. 

Setting up a prenuptial agreement is smart and more couples are doing it.  A Harris poll found that 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 who were married or engaged said that they signed a prenup. 

It seems like you have a mutually respectful relationship. Marriage is a romantic commitment, but it is also a legal contract and, as such, a business arrangement. Nobody should sign a contract without knowing the terms.

That’s why it’s difficult and expensive to get out of a marriage, and also why people who have grown unaccustomed to each other’s faces end up staying together. This is not the time for wavering.

“‘It seems like you have a mutually respectful relationship.’”

Financial dependence keeps people together. In fact, nearly 40% of couples said they could not afford to rent on their own if they split up, a recent poll of more than 3,000 couples by DivorceAnswers.com found.

More than 50% of couples said they would not marry someone with large debts, the poll added. Making the wrong decision is costly: The average divorce costs approximately $15,000. And that’s before the division of property.

What does all of this have to do with you? Finance and romance go hand-in-hand. It’s cheaper for people to live together, and pool their resources. There is an incentive to get hitched.

For that reason, there is no reason why couples should (a) shy away from supposedly awkward conversations about money and (b) combine finances before both parties are ready.

You are in your peak earning years. The next 17 years is a period of wealth building and retirement planning, and this is something you can both do together. Here’s another sentence to finish together: “Now is a good time to discuss signing a…”

“…prepup.” Correct again!

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

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