Author Topic: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice  (Read 9098 times)

Jacob F

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Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« on: June 17, 2014, 02:16:02 AM »
Hi everyone!

So here's the deal: My girlfriend (31) and I (28) are thinking about getting married. She is a US-Citizen and I am a German citizen. I would eventually move to the US for her and we've already lived to together before for like 1 1/2 years while I was working in the US for my current employer. She is not very mustachian but I already turned her around quite a little bit.
I already had the talk with her that I am looking into retiring quite early, and of course would also like her to retire alongside me. She is making big changes in her life to save more, but she will never be naturally frugal like I am - which I’m totally fine with because she is awesome the way she is already.

Here's the income perspective (all converted in USD):
Her:
Gross Pay      45k p.a.
Me:
Gross Pay      110k p.a.

Here’s the current savings perspective(all in USD)
Her:
Total incl. 401(k)   10k p.a.
Me:
Total incl. 401(k)   60k p.a.

Here’s the Asset/Debt Perspective:

Her Assets(only financials ;-) ):
House value:      130k
Car value:      5k
401(k) value:      17k
Cash:         5k

Her Total Assets:   157k

Her Debt:
Mortgage:      115k

Her Net Worth:      44k

My Assets:
Pensions (all kinds):   59k
(excl. mandatory state pension, which is like Social Security and I don’t account for in net worth)
Stocks:         345k
Cash:         45k

My Debts:
None

My Net Worth:       ~450k

I put a lot of work and effort into saving enough to retire very early. I’ve been working since I left high school and have been able to get a great job already.
I will be giving up some of this with moving to the US - but I'm okay with that, since I already have some money saved up and it's not too long until I'm FIRE.

Now, I am currently informing myself what marriage laws in the US look like, as I like to know what I sign up for in life. It is stated that in general, there’s three types of property in a marriage: separate property, joined property, divisional property. Now the main focus for me is the separate property and joined property. The North Carolina law stated that the net assets that the spouses have prior to marriage remain separate property unless it is converted into joined property. Everything that is earned (except for returns from separate property) during the marriage is joined property.

Now, that is pretty straight forward and cool with me. My question is: Do I have to make something like a document that states all these assets in detail prior to marriage and let her sign this (and vice versa me for her property?) or how is this being reconciled in case of a divorce?
Same goes with inheritances. According to NC law it should also be separate property, even if the inheritance is given after the date of marriage. We will probably both inherit some money (me some more than her, I’d say).

Even if I feel that we are awesome together, you never know what’s going to happen. I would regret not giving this the necessary due diligence. I would most likely strongly dislike for my pre-marriage savings to be given to her in a case of divorce, as well as paying a high alimony because of my already saved property.

So here is what I would like to do: I’d like to do a ‘pre-nupt light’ where we both list our current assets and the other party signs and acknowledges, that this money remains separate property and will be managed by the two parties separately. Every other financial asset besides inheritances will become joined property. Plus I would like to put down in the agreement that North Carolina law will be applicable in case of a divorce, no matter what state the divorce will be filed in (just to make sure because I read that there are a lot of different jurisdictions in different states in this topic).
What do you guys think?

Am I just being rude / greedy or just too afraid of this? I haven’t talked to her about this yet, because I’m not sure how she will react. She knows that retiring early is one of my life goals, and I think she would be okay with this. I think it would be okay to do this, since the ‘pre-nupt light’ mostly states things that are also stated in NC law. Do you guys think that this ‘pre-nupt light’ is even necessary? As I admire this forum and the people and consider you thinking equally as I do, I would really appreciate your thoughts on this one.

Thanks in advance!
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 02:22:08 AM by Jacob F »

schoenbauer

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2014, 03:01:41 AM »
hey jacob,

i cant contribute anything on the judicial issues but i must say, that i like ur straight-forward approach. protect your assets. why should you not? just think of the risk-return-thingy. signing a little paper will guarantee the ongoing existence of your assets...that's a very big return for a little risk (=your gf might look at you strangely). the other way around you would risk losing a lot with the return of her possibly not looking weird. therefore you should feel good about your decission.

furthermore it shows, that you are rational and therefore probably reliable. good characteristics to show your SO.

and perhaps she wants you to sign something similar as well ;)....

theglobetrotter

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2014, 03:12:23 AM »
You're right to be cautious. My marriage to an awesome guy didn't go well. It started going downhill a year after the marriage although we didn't divorce until 6yrs later. We're still great friends though and now we're both happily (I think -- I know I am and I think he is) married to our current spouses.

Before my ex married his current wife, #3, he was about $150k net worth (32yrs old then). Well, he married wife #2 and after a year, she took 70% of his money AND made him pay her alimony for a year. Oh, she kept the Tiffany too. Add about $20k there. She tried to sue him for more but she dropped the case a year later. She wouldn't have won anyways. She seemed really sweet before marriage. They are actually quite alike in many ways too.

You never know! Life is full of little surprises!

If she really loves you, and you plan on using what you've worked hard for to FIRE soon, then I think she should be ok with it. Especially since the content will be more less the same as what NC says. As long as whatever you accumulate together are his + hers in some manner then whatever you all have before shouldn't matter. Also, it's important too how you present it. Don't make her think that you're afraid she's only with you for the money.

When I was working, we had a joint account. 50-50 was put in there and the rest went into our separate IRA, savings and checking. We never had to argue about money. If I wanted to buy a new dress, I buy a new dress. We saved already (investment and emergency fund) and so what's in our checking is to do as we please. I am not working now but since it's a mutual arrangement, we're ok with him supporting us. It felt really weird at first and I still can't wait to make my own money but since we're both doing our things for our family (we have two little ones), we're fine. We plan on doing our old ways with money once I work again.

former player

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2014, 04:56:56 AM »
If your pre-nup doesn't include what happens if you have kids, and you then have kids, it might have no effect.

I think it is sensible to have a pre-nup, given that you are both coming into the marriage with assets (she has her house, you have your shares and pension).  But it is also sensible, if you are going to do it, to do it properly with both of you having legal advice on an agreement - you need separate lawyers, and you also need to get it settled well in advance of the wedding, so that it can't be argued that one of you got bounced/blackmailed into it at the last moment.

Some jurisdictions do pension splitting, so your pensions from Germany should be included in the mix.

boarder42

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2014, 06:04:34 AM »
dang man ... i dont have advice but Props on the 450k NW at only 28.  including my wife's money we are only around 250k give or take and we are 27.  super props

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2014, 07:57:39 AM »
A prenup is not unreasonable but you need to have a discussion with her before you get too far into your research.  Depending on her personality and approach to personal finances, it's likely that she'll need time to think and research the issue as well.  The two of you also need to discuss the variables together - what age and where to retire, how you will handle kids financially, what happens if one of you would need to move for a job and the other spouse follow, impact of any further educational plans, etc.

CommonCents

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2014, 08:21:44 AM »
OP - Talk to a lawyer to make sure what you think is the law is correct.  Echoing another poster, for the prenup to be valid you'll want independent counsel on both sides reviewing the prenup with plenty of time before the marriage.  Consider many scenarios: how would it change if you are married a short/long time, if one of you is ill, if you have kids, if you have kids and one of you stays home with the kids, if you move to Germany or another country, etc.  Try to make the prenup flexible to cover everything.  And don't delay on mentioning it to her.  It's a tough conversation to broach, but better to broach many months out from the wedding than 1-2 months before when she may feel ambushed.

Finally, congrats on your engagement and your net worth!

But you are right to want to protect yourself. In the US, courts will always favor the wife.

Please don't make sweeping generalizations like this.  It's an unsubstantiated claim that's an opinion, and one probably limited to your state unless you are knowledgeable of all of the state laws and the effect of them.  I'd also suggest you probably mean SAHSpouse rather than the "wife".

ETA: I did a quick non-leading google search of "do divorce courts favor one gender".  This article popped up at the top, which presents many statistics which dispell the myth you propose:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cathy-meyer/dispelling-the-myth-of-ge_b_1617115.html
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 08:28:14 AM by CommonCents »

Left

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2014, 09:27:47 AM »
hm, does this even apply if you are not a US citizen? All/most of your assets would be in Germany if you left it there then brought what you needed over as you needed it?
I've only read cases where the foreign spouse was the poorer of the two, in this case you would be the richer :S
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 09:33:46 AM by eyem »

dragoncar

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2014, 09:37:11 AM »
If your pre-nup doesn't include what happens if you have kids, and you then have kids, it might have no effect.

I think it is sensible to have a pre-nup, given that you are both coming into the marriage with assets (she has her house, you have your shares and pension).  But it is also sensible, if you are going to do it, to do it properly with both of you having legal advice on an agreement - you need separate lawyers, and you also need to get it settled well in advance of the wedding, so that it can't be argued that one of you got bounced/blackmailed into it at the last moment.

Some jurisdictions do pension splitting, so your pensions from Germany should be included in the mix.

This is basically the answer I'd give.  Except even if you do specify what happens with kids, it still might have no effect.  Basically, AFAIK, there's no such thing as an "iron clad prenup" so your "prenup light" may merely amount to persuasive evidence.  Either way, it's smart to try to document the intent of both parties in the event of a separation (which includes death -- a lot of people forget this).

I'll also note that, if you are applying for a green card through marriage, your wife will have to agree to support you for a certain amount of time anyways -- a certain number of years, or a certain number of social security credits.  Hopefully that clause stays irrelevant.

brewer12345

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2014, 09:41:02 AM »
OP, if you are not completely sure (i.e. willing to make a 450k bet) that this will be a successful marriage, don't get married in the US.

gdgyva

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2014, 09:43:16 AM »
congrats on your accomplishments

but i am going to come at this from a different perspective

you have done well for 28 yrs old....very well.....but, you are not coming into a possible marriage with a net worth in the 7-8 figure range....if that was the case, i think i would be on your side as far as the pre nup

with a net asset range under a half million, yes, you have something to lose.....but marriage opens you up to lots of risk in that way

i think i would have the conversation with your fiancee, and based on her reactions, would decide how to proceed

i would NOT throw away "the one" if she was reticent to sign a pre nup

trust and communication will the the big factors on whether or not you have a successful marriage.....

pre nups tend to put a doubt in the trust department....jmo of course


Anatidae V

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2014, 09:54:43 AM »
I'm interested to see how people respond to this, as I am thinking of getting a prenup agreement with my partner. We're already married minus the paper in our government's view, but I'd like to have a specific piece of guidance if something unforseen occurred. We've also been together and built up our assets together, so ours would look like investor 814, with us agreeing to 50/50 split and a child support agreement should we have kids at the time. I figure I'm protecting him from me as well as the other way around, and that it's simple risk management.
But yeah, don't spring it on her, give her plenty of time to think about what she considers reasonable!

Cassie

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2014, 10:02:46 AM »
Getting a pre-nup is not unloving but it is smart!  Follow the great advice given about separate lawyers, etc.  Also talk to her about it sooner rather then later.

dragoncar

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2014, 10:03:01 AM »
I'm interested to see how people respond to this, as I am thinking of getting a prenup agreement with my partner. We're already married minus the paper in our government's view, but I'd like to have a specific piece of guidance if something unforseen occurred. We've also been together and built up our assets together, so ours would look like investor 814, with us agreeing to 50/50 split and a child support agreement should we have kids at the time. I figure I'm protecting him from me as well as the other way around, and that it's simple risk management.
But yeah, don't spring it on her, give her plenty of time to think about what she considers reasonable!

Well, we've argued discussed prenups and divorce quite a few times, for example:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/help-with-a-prenup/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/combining-finances-after-marriage/50/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/off-topic/the-biggest-threat-to-fire-what-about-divorce/

I don't personally see any downside in documenting the intent of the married couple.  But some people are just (I'd say irrationally) disgusted by prenups.  So if your spouse is one of those, you have to decide how important it is to you to have a highly rational spouse ;-)

OP, if you are not completely sure (i.e. willing to make a 450k bet) that this will be a successful marriage, don't get married in the US.

I did a prenup, because nobody can be completely sure about anything.  A 450k bet is some people's entire FIRE target stache.  In that case, it's not a 450k bet, but a bet on whether you will have to go back to work in 20 years after getting divorced, losing your stache, and having no relevant work experience in the hot new technology.l
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 10:05:54 AM by dragoncar »

Cpa Cat

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2014, 10:04:11 AM »
You should get a prenuptual agreement primarily because you may move out of NC. Prenups are often written to split property exactly how NC law does. Having a prenup just makes those rules portable to any state.

Another common item that gets put into a prenup is that both parties relinquish the right to alimony. Generally, you would want to include some kind of settlement in lieu of alimony, because your prenup can be thrown out by a divorce court that finds it to be unfair. Some people write in a clause that allows alimony, but only within certain limits or after a certain number of years.

It's good to put something in there about alimony - some states have limits (for instance, my state limits alimony to 10 years), while others allow alimony-for-life. It's best not to stay silent on the issue.

It's important that you and your future spouse both consult with an attorney before signing a prenup, to make sure that it's fair and equitable and that everyone is making an informed decision. Skipping this step can be grounds to have the prenup thrown out in a divorce court.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2014, 10:07:50 AM »
... and a child support agreement should we have kids at the time.

You're in Australia, so I'm not sure what the rules are there. But here in the USA, you can't actually rely on preemptive agreements about child support. Essentially, it's the child's right to receive child support, so you can't decide how much the child is entitled to (it's not your right to decide).

In theory, you can make an agreement - many parents make these decisions outside of a court - but it's not legally binding.

Punchingat50

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2014, 10:32:23 AM »
Here's some advice:

1. Get a lawyer
   - Do not cheap out on this. A good pre-nup will cost 5-7k. It will save you considerably more

2. Give them all the information you posted here.

3. Do not set a date until the ink is dry on the pre-nup and your lawyer oks it.
   - It sounds cold but I learned this the hard way.

dragoncar

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2014, 10:43:31 AM »
Here's some advice:

1. Get a lawyer
   - Do not cheap out on this. A good pre-nup will cost 5-7k. It will save you considerably more

2. Give them all the information you posted here.

3. Do not set a date until the ink is dry on the pre-nup and your lawyer oks it.
   - It sounds cold but I learned this the hard way.

I'll say that mine was something like $1.5k total, and this is in the expensive SF area.  It was pretty good for a "standard" document with few complications (no prior marriages, kids, no complicated property arrangements, etc.)  I wouldn't pay 7k if your NW is only $450k (1.5% is too high for that particular insurance!).

scrubbyfish

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2014, 12:04:51 PM »
I'm with those who feel a pre-nup is a positive for both partners. To me, it simply indicates excellent qualities such as: planning, foresight, humility, awareness, intelligence, practicality, forthcomingness, honesty, and straightforward communication. Because this is my perspective, if a person asked me for a pre-nup, I would delight in him or her all the more!

Definitely consult with a lawyer in the area you will be marrying/living, and one who is also aware of how a pre-nup is affected by a subsequent move to any other state or country.

cbgg

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2014, 12:21:18 PM »
I don't think that's rude or greedy, I think it's prudent and clear.  HOWEVER, how your GF will feel is dependent on her personality, not mine.  Obviously, for some this is a hot button issue. 

I do think that the legal enforce-ability of pre nups can be really problematic, so that may factor into your decision about whether to bring it up or not. 

ch12

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2014, 06:22:50 PM »
This is going to sound strange, but I think there is even a "romantic" aspect to a pre-nup.  I think there is something sweet about saying, "Right now, when I love you an want to spend the rest of my life with you, when I still have only your very best interests in mind, I want to make plans and decisions for a time when things are not going as well and we may not have each other's best interests in mind, a time when making fair decisions might be hard."  It protects both parties from things being harder than they need to be. Planning for the (hopefully never happens) worst during the best times.  I like them.

Get a pre-nup.

It happens that I have lower earning power but higher inheritance than almost anybody that I'd marry. I will also have enough to FIRE by age 30 (probably).

It's just a statement saying that you respect the other person's property, and that you won't try to take what isn't yours. I don't see any problems with that.

Jacob F

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2014, 03:32:47 AM »
Thank you all for your feedback!! I'm surprised that many people see it like I see it as well. I will try to talk to her about the topic. I think she will at first be a little surprised, but in the end, I hope we'll find common ground. I'll update once its done ;-)

rockstache

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2014, 10:20:01 AM »
This is going to sound strange, but I think there is even a "romantic" aspect to a pre-nup.  I think there is something sweet about saying, "Right now, when I love you an want to spend the rest of my life with you, when I still have only your very best interests in mind, I want to make plans and decisions for a time when things are not going as well and we may not have each other's best interests in mind, a time when making fair decisions might be hard."  It protects both parties from things being harder than they need to be. Planning for the (hopefully never happens) worst during the best times.  I like them.

I don't think there is anything romantic about being the one to suggest the pre-nup when you are the one with the significantly higher net worth. It's a good idea in this case, and hopefully one she agrees to, but I bet she won't see it as romantic.

dragoncar

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #23 on: June 20, 2014, 10:29:35 AM »
Thank you all for your feedback!! I'm surprised that many people see it like I see it as well. I will try to talk to her about the topic. I think she will at first be a little surprised, but in the end, I hope we'll find common ground. I'll update once its done ;-)

Cool -- I don't know (remember) what your timeline is, but this isn't something you want to rush.  Best to bring it up more casually at first -- don't put her on the spot.  Work out the details between the two of you over time, once she's had a chance to think about it.  Make sure she's represented, and chooses her own lawyer, and if you will pay for her lawyer give her the money, not directly to her lawyer.  Her side should be relatively cheap if they are just reviewing a draft and providing advice.

*I'm not your lawyer, none of this should be taken as legal advice, it's just what worked for me.

rocksinmyhead

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2014, 10:33:57 AM »
But you are right to want to protect yourself. In the US, courts will always favor the wife.

do you think this is actually true, or do they just favor the lower- or non-earner which is often the wife? prenups are something I have thought vaguely about, since my boyfriend and I plan on marrying eventually and I make about 3x what he does (but eventually would like to switch careers and take probably a 50% paycut, so if god forbid we did get divorced, I would hate to be stuck paying alimony that was based on my former income).

This is going to sound strange, but I think there is even a "romantic" aspect to a pre-nup.  I think there is something sweet about saying, "Right now, when I love you an want to spend the rest of my life with you, when I still have only your very best interests in mind, I want to make plans and decisions for a time when things are not going as well and we may not have each other's best interests in mind, a time when making fair decisions might be hard."  It protects both parties from things being harder than they need to be. Planning for the (hopefully never happens) worst during the best times.  I like them.

I don't think there is anything romantic about being the one to suggest the pre-nup when you are the one with the significantly higher net worth. It's a good idea in this case, and hopefully one she agrees to, but I bet she won't see it as romantic.

yeah, I agree. I think it would be romantic/sweet in the opposite situation.

anyway, good luck Jacob (and as others have said, congrats on the nice stache!), look forward to hearing how it goes!

CommonCents

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Re: Getting married to a US-Girl / Need advice
« Reply #25 on: June 20, 2014, 11:46:38 AM »
This is going to sound strange, but I think there is even a "romantic" aspect to a pre-nup.  I think there is something sweet about saying, "Right now, when I love you an want to spend the rest of my life with you, when I still have only your very best interests in mind, I want to make plans and decisions for a time when things are not going as well and we may not have each other's best interests in mind, a time when making fair decisions might be hard."  It protects both parties from things being harder than they need to be. Planning for the (hopefully never happens) worst during the best times.  I like them.

I don't think there is anything romantic about being the one to suggest the pre-nup when you are the one with the significantly higher net worth. It's a good idea in this case, and hopefully one she agrees to, but I bet she won't see it as romantic.

Agreed, yes, I don't see it as romantic in that situation either.  I think it CAN be used as a tool to protect the other spouse (e.g. they forego career to be stay at home parent), but more often than not what they are agreeing to is less than they would have received w/o the prenup.  While it may be reasonable, practical, etc., that's not what I'd call romantic.