Author Topic: Premarital Financial Counseling  (Read 5262 times)

Sunflower

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Premarital Financial Counseling
« on: February 24, 2014, 08:35:04 PM »
It's been extremely well established that finances are one of the biggest topics of stress in a marriage, and, divorce wreaks havoc on any FI plans. My SO and I are both frugal people who approach a lot of things in the same way but as we start to embrace the future together we're going to have several issues to think through/work out that I think would best be done with some outside guidance. (For example, right now I make way more but he's coming into the relationship with quite a bit of money from family inheritances. We have very different long-term career goals and I expect that throughout our lives there will be pretty big income disparities although that will probably switch back and forth between us. We also have different base views of money and finances based on how we learned about it growing up.)

How does one even go about finding someone to talk through these, and other non-financial topics with? Neither of us are particularly religious and our families come from different religious backgrounds so going through a church isn't going to work. Does insurance cover this sort of thing?

Any amazing/terrible stories about your own experiences with counseling?

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2014, 09:16:27 AM »
I would recommend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University - I know it's "religious" and most likely held at a church, but *most* of the material is general financial guidance. And there's a workbook as well as group discussion.
There may be non-religious self study workbooks as well - check Amazon and Half.com.
At the very least, you should share credit reports with each other to start a conversation, and also discuss/list 5, 10, and 20 year goals with each other (in general, not just money goals... the dreams are what need to be aligned/agreed upon, and then the finances should fall into place)

I thought about getting into premarital financial counseling at one point, but wasn't sure if there is a big enough market for it. Maybe there is! :-)

EDIT: A quick Amazon search yielded this (non-religious) workbook: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1572243112/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1572243112&linkCode=as2&tag=weneamopl-20
And this book, which also seems to be non-religious:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061649910/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0061649910&linkCode=as2&tag=weneamopl-20
« Last Edit: February 25, 2014, 10:38:04 AM by MustachianAccountant »

Dezrah

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2014, 10:34:18 AM »
We could either do about 6 sessions split between the priest and a local support couple or knock it all out in a single weekend retreat.  We did the former since it was cheaper and still very easy.  One of the first things we did was separately fill out a series of questions about ourselves, the other person, and our view on the relationship overall.  Then we went over our answers to see what potential issues we have and haven’t addressed.  It wasn’t about having right or wrong answers, just about opening the discussion and having someone there guide you through it objectively.  Having the counselor there (in our case a priest) was important because it insulated us from having one person unconsciously dominate the discussion or hearing only what we wanted to hear.

The priest told us that he had counseled many couples who ultimately decided not to get married, like one couple who each had very different dreams about how many children they would have.  It was far preferable for everyone to bring these things to the surface before committing to something that just couldn’t be sustained indefinitely.

Believe it or not, religion was just one of very many points of discussion.  Our church was sincerely more interested that we were appropriately compatible than strictly adherent.  For what it’s worth, any worthwhile counseling should in include extensive discussion about religion.  It’s fairly common that a parent will return to their religious background once they have children.  How would you feel if you or your husband had this change of heart and/or wanted to involve your children in their faith?  Do you fundamentally disagree and could this be a deal breaker for either of you?

Overall, ours was a really great experience.  We didn’t really learn anything new, or at least nothing major, but we did confirm that we were on the same page for the really big issues, money, family, religion, sex, careers, children, etc.  I try to talk everyone I can into doing premarital counseling, religious or not.  We’ve been married over 5 years now and I still fondly recall these sessions.

I’ll add this as well, I believe the retreat option was technically Catholic, but they were very open to people of all beliefs including atheists.  That doesn’t mean that every religious based counseling service is reputable but I would still suggest using these communities as a starting point.

As for finances, I find it hard to believe that insurance would cover anything, but like you suggest, counseling will be way cheaper than divorce if it turns out there is any incompatibility.  Best of luck to you.

Sunflower

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2014, 04:09:02 PM »
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! My parents did the Dave Ramsey class and they had great things to say about it but I think my SO and I are more versed in finances overall than they were. I'll have to check it out and see if we might still be able to find some value in it.

One of the first things we did was separately fill out a series of questions about ourselves, the other person, and our view on the relationship overall.  Then we went over our answers to see what potential issues we have and haven’t addressed.  It wasn’t about having right or wrong answers, just about opening the discussion and having someone there guide you through it objectively.  Having the counselor there (in our case a priest) was important because it insulated us from having one person unconsciously dominate the discussion or hearing only what we wanted to hear.

This is exactly what I'm looking for! Now I just have to figure out how to find someone to be the 'guide'. We've been together many years and are extremely happy but I tend 'unconsciously dominate' conversations whereas his opinions tend to be quieter. I'm sure that we could have productive and respectful conversations on our own with a workbook but I think we would get so much out of having a third party there to point out observations about our views on a topic, or the way we interact, that we might miss on our own.

It's not that I'm anti-religion - it's just that I would feel kind of strange contacting, for example, a Catholic church as neither of us are Catholic. We've also both had some bad experiences with religious leaders in our respective backgrounds (Jewish and Protestant) when our views were not fundamental enough for the people trying to bring us back 'into the fold'. I definitely don't have bad things to say about an entire religion, but I do have some mistrust about individuals within the faith and I would be nervous contacting someone out of the blue. I guess even if I were to find a family counseling service I would have the same concerns - people talk about needing to 'click' with a therapist but I'm not sure how you easily find someone that you click with.

dragoncar

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2014, 04:30:26 PM »
I'm guessing that you can determine financial compatibility by swapping Mint accounts

Prairie Stash

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2014, 04:34:49 PM »
I did some premarital counseling last weekend, with a priest.  It was genuinely fun, basically we just talked about ourselves, each other and our future (his role was just to guide the conversation).  After the priest left we talked for a few more hours, it was a pretty decent day. Just google premarital counseling in your area, you'll find something.

As for the finances, I show my fiancée my accounts regularly.  She lets me do her taxes (lucky me), not much is a secret.  I also never criticize her spending, she's an adult.  She gives me the same respect.

Sunflower

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2014, 08:08:29 PM »
I'm guessing that you can determine financial compatibility by swapping Mint accounts

We're definitely financially compatible. :-)

We've been together 5+ years without any major problems including money. Maybe I'm weird but I still think we could find value in having a 3rd party moderated conversation before the government starts viewing us as an equal financial entity. In my mind, I'm picturing something like Dezrah described earlier - no real surprises but still a good experience to go through and look back on fondly years later. I would like a safe space to talk about things like pre-nups and sharing finances if one of us wants to stop working. It's not that I don't think we could handle it in the moment, but that setting the right tone early on for discussions around money and everything else is only going to help the relationship in the long run.

Pell mell

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2014, 11:11:51 PM »
We could either do about 6 sessions split between the priest and a local support couple or knock it all out in a single weekend retreat.  We did the former since it was cheaper and still very easy.  One of the first things we did was separately fill out a series of questions about ourselves, the other person, and our view on the relationship overall.  Then we went over our answers to see what potential issues we have and haven’t addressed.  It wasn’t about having right or wrong answers, just about opening the discussion and having someone there guide you through it objectively.  Having the counselor there (in our case a priest) was important because it insulated us from having one person unconsciously dominate the discussion or hearing only what we wanted to hear.

The priest told us that he had counseled many couples who ultimately decided not to get married, like one couple who each had very different dreams about how many children they would have.  It was far preferable for everyone to bring these things to the surface before committing to something that just couldn’t be sustained indefinitely.

Believe it or not, religion was just one of very many points of discussion.  Our church was sincerely more interested that we were appropriately compatible than strictly adherent.  For what it’s worth, any worthwhile counseling should in include extensive discussion about religion.  It’s fairly common that a parent will return to their religious background once they have children.  How would you feel if you or your husband had this change of heart and/or wanted to involve your children in their faith?  Do you fundamentally disagree and could this be a deal breaker for either of you?

Overall, ours was a really great experience.  We didn’t really learn anything new, or at least nothing major, but we did confirm that we were on the same page for the really big issues, money, family, religion, sex, careers, children, etc.  I try to talk everyone I can into doing premarital counseling, religious or not.  We’ve been married over 5 years now and I still fondly recall these sessions.

I’ll add this as well, I believe the retreat option was technically Catholic, but they were very open to people of all beliefs including atheists.  That doesn’t mean that every religious based counseling service is reputable but I would still suggest using these communities as a starting point.

As for finances, I find it hard to believe that insurance would cover anything, but like you suggest, counseling will be way cheaper than divorce if it turns out there is any incompatibility.  Best of luck to you.

This sounds perfect. We finally just resorted to a paid marital counsellor, which is not very Mustachian, I know. I thought Catholic counselling was just for Catholics and my partner is a devout atheist.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2014, 01:21:24 AM »
My husband and I took a marriage prep course through our local counseling center, where we did a similar questionnaire and group discussions, with specific homework items to discuss.  It was a 2 day course, over a weekend, with about 6 couples, and one male and one female facilitator. We focused on communicating needs, wants, goals, and problem solving.

I found it very useful, and it was only $200 for both of us for the weekend.

wtjbatman

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2014, 02:57:21 AM »
I'm guessing that you can determine financial compatibility by swapping Mint accounts

We're definitely financially compatible. :-)

We've been together 5+ years without any major problems including money. Maybe I'm weird but I still think we could find value in having a 3rd party moderated conversation before the government starts viewing us as an equal financial entity. In my mind, I'm picturing something like Dezrah described earlier - no real surprises but still a good experience to go through and look back on fondly years later. I would like a safe space to talk about things like pre-nups and sharing finances if one of us wants to stop working. It's not that I don't think we could handle it in the moment, but that setting the right tone early on for discussions around money and everything else is only going to help the relationship in the long run.

Sounds like a great way to suck the passion right out of a relationship.

Also, reread your first sentence. You're hardly jumping into the deep end blind-folded.

Kaminoge

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2014, 03:37:31 AM »
Quote

Sounds like a great way to suck the passion right out of a relationship.

Also, reread your first sentence. You're hardly jumping into the deep end blind-folded.

???? Why would it suck the passion out of a relationship? I'd think anything that enhanced communication would lead to a better relationship.

Dezrah

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2014, 08:56:19 AM »
Chemistay,
I’m so glad to hear my account got you excited about the prospect of counseling.

I was thinking about this a little bit more.

I had at least one college friend who got married and admitted he was largely unimpressed with their premarital counseling.  Apparently their counselor kept asking weird hypotheticals like, “What would you do if your spouse was in a serious accident and was incapable of having sex?”  “Uh, deal with it when the time comes?  Masturbate?”

By contrast, our counselor asked things like, “Are there any conditions where you would consider divorce?  Financial strain?  Infidelity?”  I’d say, “Well infidelity would be a pretty big deal, but I wouldn’t say it’s automatically a deal breaker.  I guess if something happened like a brain injury that fundamentally altered the person I married I would consider removing myself.”  “Really?  Just something to consider, the person you describe is sick and in need of help which is something you’ll be pledging to endure.  Now obviously you should never stay in a dangerous situation, but that doesn’t mean we simply abandon this person.  What if you were the one who was injured?  Wouldn’t you hope your spouse will be there for you in your weakened state?”  “Hmm.  You raise some good points.  I suppose it does vary on a case-by-case basis, but where I stand now, I would say that faithfully caring for a mentally or physically sick spouse is part of the risk I’m willing to take.”

When I look back, I also laugh a bit at how often the priest kept asking if we were sure and reminding us we could stop at any time and it would be okay.  This wasn’t anything against us personally or as a couple.  He was just checking for second thoughts and cold feet.  I’d smile and say, “Yes, I’m sure.  Now let’s start the procession.  We’re a few minutes behind.”

brand new stash

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2014, 09:16:23 AM »
When my husband and I were engaged, we did the church based marriage program, but also got this book.
http://www.amazon.com/1001-Questions-Ask-Before-Married-ebook/dp/B005K8H0U0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393431160&sr=8-1&keywords=1001+questions+to+ask+before+you+get+married

We would take through a few at a time.  Many of the questions were very basic, and many didn't apply (ex: how to deal with one of you being a celebrity).  But the overwhelming majority at least prompted discussion between the two of us which we both enjoyed. 8 years of happy marriage latter, I recommend it.

mh1361

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2014, 10:29:07 AM »
My Fiancee and I are in the midst of pre-marital counseling through our church right now. We haven't done the finances section yet, but I can send the pdf that includes it if you're interested. There are some sections that will tell you look up bible verses, but obviously you could skip those. Not surprisingly, I would recommend reading them, you might find something interesting.

TomTX

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Re: Premarital Financial Counseling
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2014, 07:07:40 PM »
Not financial, but something you should do with your fiancee:

http://www.puritytest.org/

Take the classic 500 question version. Together.