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Tackling the taboo topic couples avoid

topicAre you in a solid relationship and wondering how to approach the tricky topic of money? About to get married and flustered over joint finances and complex contracts? Maybe it’s time to take the proverbial leap and have your first-ever visit to a financial adviser as a couple.  It can be surprisingly helpful to have an intermediary on-hand to help navigate (and mediate) relationship money matters.

Discussing money can make us feel vulnerable and cause anxiety over a perceived loss of financial independence. A financial adviser can assist with mitigating these fears and help both partners to feel empowered to vocalise their thoughts, feelings and frustrations.

So what are the key things to consider on your first visit?

  • Your budget: It is important to know where the money goes in the household.
  • Your dependents: Is one partner supporting his or her parents?  If there are children from previous relationships, how are you going to split the financial responsibility of raising them? Who will be legal guardians should anything happen to either of you?
  • Your current or intended marital regime: The adviser will help you to understand the difference between in/out community of property regimes and guide you on the implications of each kind of contract.

How do the dynamics change when you plan your finances as a single person versus when you’re in a serious relationship or married?

It’s not too different, but there are more dependents to consider. Now, you’re not just looking out for yourself, but you have the futures and goals of others to consider when you do your planning. You also have more people in the household who need to be fed and clothed. Additionally, if you have differences in your spending or saving preferences, this could affect the dynamic of your financial planning as joint decisions are harder to make when you want completely different things.

What should you discuss with your partner before you visit the intermediary?

Discuss your strengths and weaknesses as a couple (financially and otherwise) beforehand.

Essentially, you should lay most of your cards on the table – bring up everything you intend to discuss at the financial planning session. This discussion requires openness about salaries, spending patterns and goals and, especially, any concerns you may have. It’s best to be sensitive and non-judgemental with your partner. Here are some questions to kick-start the conversation:

  • What are your personal goals?
  • What are your joint goals?
  • Who will pay for what?
  • How will you fund your children’s education?
  • How do you plan to fund your retirement?
  • How do you plan to invest in property?
  • What happens to your assets after you die?
  • Are there any parts of your financial situation that you feel very strongly you want to change or keep the same?

If your visit is just before you tie the knot, what should your discussion focus on?

  • The most important thing to chat about is your marital regime. For example, are you including/ excluding accrual and what are the implications of this for the estate should one partner be sequestered or the marriage end?
  • Additionally, you should discuss updating your beneficiaries on your retirement funds and life cover if you want your significant other to enjoy the benefits thereof.
  • Remember, the planner needs to have a relationship with your partner as well so it’s usually best if you both attend the session – both partners need to feel involved and in the loop.

On a completely different note, what if you’re about to ‘untie’ the knot?

  • In the case of divorce, remember to update your will – you only have three months to update your will otherwise the existing document remains valid.
  • It is important to get advice before the divorce to assist with the budget and the settlement (to understand your pension and the implication of any policies, for example).
  • If you receive maintenance from your ex-spouse, it is advisable to have life cover on them so that you can continue receiving income from the policy should something happen to them.
  • The adviser can also help you to understand any tax implications.

For more information, visit Sanlam.co.za.

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Glamour International