Written by Liz Falconer, Edited by Cara Lau.
This is part of our Op-Ed series where we feature third-party opinions and thoughts on the ways finance affects our lives. The authors are not so much giving advice, as they are sharing experiences. Some will make you think, others will inspire, and we hope all of them will give you something to talk about.
I’ve been with my partner for over five years now. We’ve made the conscious decision not to get married for a myriad of reasons, money being the most significant one. The thought of spending thousands of dollars on a wedding that we could put toward our home instead was a no-brainer for us. Even though we’ve discussed the topic of marriage many times, it always came to the same conclusion. We both agreed that if we were to ever take the plunge, not only would we have a super-frugal and small ceremony, but we would also draft a prenuptial agreement. Cue the gasps! A PRENUP? In my experience, the mere mention of the subject makes the average woman recoil in horror. And I’ve found that in general, my opinion and enthusiasm for the idea is surprising to most.
My major issue with the subject of prenups is that they are so often thought of as an insult to women. But having one would have saved me in my previous relationship. In an effort to make the separation clean and easy, we avoided lawyers and I ended up walking away from several thousand dollars in the process. This is quite a juxtaposition to the usual story we hear – the rich man insisting on a strict contract to protect himself from his gold-digging wife.
What I think a lot of people don’t consider is that a prenup can actually give women a lot of power. Don’t forget that this is a negotiation, not a law being laid down by your (potential) spouse. At the same time, while I would absolutely champion someone signing one, I would also recommend not doing so until both parties are happy with the terms. I think it’s important to be clear about what you are hoping to get out of the agreement, and not to agree to something you aren’t happy with just to end an uncomfortable conversation. Opening a discussion about finance with your partner might give you valuable insight into how they budget and what their spending habits are; it could also set you on a path toward working together and accomplishing a common goal. Because in the end, isn’t that what marriage is all about? Common goals?
Something that’s always confused me is the reluctance from my female friends to talk about personal finance with their partners. Forget bringing up a prenup! Money is such a taboo subject. There seems to be a concern that if a financial discussion of that magnitude starts, you will have to reveal everything to your partner, which can be a scary thought for most. But I’m inclined to think that if you’re marrying someone you don’t feel comfortable talking about money with, maybe it’s time you re-evaluate what you hope to achieve from joining your lives. Let’s not forget – romance, roses and white dresses aside, marriage is a partnership. It’s more than cute dates and fireside chats, it’s a contract. And it’s a pretty major financial decision. If I decide to invest in a marriage, I want a prenup to protect myself and my spouse.
Illustration by Teddy Kang.
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*Name has been changed by request.