Young Couples Should Bank on a Financial Heart-to-Heart

Article excerpt

When it came to the royal wedding, no detail was off-limits: the bride's weight, who's making her dress and who didn't make the guest list.

Even the couple's finances are open to scrutiny. Did Prince William break with tradition and ask bride-to-be Kate Middleton to sign a prenup?

There are plenty of commoners in their 20s getting hitched every day. Their finances aren't fodder for the tabloids, although money will play a major role in their lives together. That's why, as unromantic as it may sound, young couples need to have a heart-to- heart talk about money long before they walk down the aisle.

"It's a business arrangement," said Mari Adam, a financial planner in Florida. "You really want to put aside your emotions and put on your little green eyeshade."

Ashley Hodak and her fiance, Ian Sullivan, are getting married in June after dating five years. The Millersville, Md., couple started talking about finances a couple of years ago.

"We discussed debt, college loans, car payments and insurance. We really put everything out on the table," said Hodak, 25, a communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization.

"As far as money is concerned, we are really very compatible," added Sullivan, 24, an adjunct professor at Towson University. "We both believe in saving," but not to the point where they don't have any fun, he said. Sullivan acknowledges that it would be stressful if his future wife were a big spender.

Ideally, couples will be on the same page. But to know that, they need to talk about money. If you're getting married and haven't had that discussion, here are financial matters to consider:

Full disclosure: Once engaged -- and before you book the venue for the wedding reception -- you need to put finances on the table. Disclose your retirement accounts and other assets. Own up to student debt, car loans, credit cards and other obligations.

And exchange credit reports. They are far more informative than a credit score. Reports reveal credit card balances, late payments or a past bankruptcy that could hamper your ability to buy a house together.

"You don't want to be in front of the mortgage broker and find that out. That would be embarrassing and upsetting," said Brooke West, a SunTrust financial planner in Florida.

If you're reluctant to bring up these issues, take your partner for a premarital consultation with a financial adviser, who can ask the tough questions for you.

Till debt do us part: You don't have to call off the wedding if your betrothed is buried in debt. But it should trigger a conversation about how that debt was incurred and what's the plan for paying it off. …