My wife and I were married a few years ago. I was working at myFICO at the time we got engaged, so I was already swimming in the world of credit, debt, and personal finance.
In fact, Suze Orman was a partner of myFICO, so I was exposed to a lot of her principles. For example, she believes that all couples should go through the prenuptial agreement process, which seems like heresy to most of her viewers. The “pre-nup” has negative connotations for most people, but Orman has a different spin on it — which I adopted.
Her concept is that a pre-nup doesn't need to be focused on a negative outcome of divorce. Instead, it can be used as an exercise to really talk about money, and especially values around money. Her thinking is that if a couple can get through a pre-nup, they'll be better equipped to handle financial issues down the road. Orman believes that every couple should have a pre-nup, and that it isn't a tool just for wealthy people.
So, Molly and I decided to do a pre-nup. We told friends that we intended to do a pre-nup and the reactions were, perhaps, unsurprising. Most looked at me with disdain, as if it were something I was forcing her to do. But we held firm because we knew the data: 80% of all divorces are related to money issues. Over half of credit distress issues come from an estranged spouse.
Honestly, the process was awkward at times. But mostly, it was a healthy discussion about goals, fairness, and respect. It was a chance for each of us to show each our true character. I learned what was important to Molly, and she learned what was important to me.
To be frugal, we had a lawyer friend draft up the standard documents, and then we each hired an attorney to make sure we were covering all the bases.
To those of you who say, “I don't need a pre-nup to have great communication with my spouse!”, I say this: There's a value you can't see until you go through it. You are forced to show more of who you really are, and it's hard to force that in the courting stage.
In the end, the process was cathartic. Now our money discussions don't involve communication issues. Don't get me wrong: Like most couples, we have disagreements about how to spend money! But we feel great about the transparency the pre-nup provided, and the fact that it's made us better communicators.
Do you have experience with a pre-nuptial agreement? How do you feel about the process? Would you recommend it to others?