5 'Bachelorette'-inspired ways to discuss money matters before marriage

The ‘Bachelorette’ Rachel Lindsay and her fiancé Bryan Abasolo.

As far as The Bachelorette goes, last night’s finale just might have been the most dramatic episode ever.

TV viewers were shocked on Monday when Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay picked chiropractor Bryan Abasolo to be her fiancé. Out of the final three, Abasolo seemed the least likely to win, but he stole her heart after personal trainer and crowd favorite Peter Kraus got the boot.

The outcome was shocking, but we were actually more startled by a financially savvy comment Lindsay made during the show.

In the episode, the three remaining contestants got an overnight date where they could be alone with Lindsay without cameras. Typically, couples use this time to explore their intimacy, but Lindsay, a lawyer, said she used the night to cross-examine the men.

“Believe it or not, I went in there with a list, and I had questions that I wanted to ask,” she told show host Chris Harrison. “I was asking about health insurance and credit scores.”

The entire season of The Bachelorette only lasts eight weeks, which means that Lindsay and Abasolo promised to build a life together after knowing each other for two months. Even if you don’t agree with Lindsay’s decision, it was refreshing to hear that she asked some major financial questions before committing to life with a virtual stranger.

While most people won’t get engaged on top of a castle in Spain after eight weeks of dating on national television, there is a thing or two we can learn from Lindsay. First of all, you can’t force someone to propose to you (Kraus didn’t, although he declared his love for Lindsay.). And secondly, before you walk down the aisle, you and your partner need to have an honest conversation about money.

As you plan your own future full of love, weddings and final roses, financial planner Morgen B. Rochard, CFA, CFP® suggests five ways to tackle tough financial matters.

1. Keep initial conversations light

Diving into a serious conversation about money can quickly turn accusatory. Instead, make your first talk about money light. Rochard suggests starting with some softball questions like:

  • What do you enjoy spending money on?
  • What are your financial goals for the future?
  • Are there any goals so important that they would prevent you from spending money on your favorite things?
  • What are your childhood memories about money?

Having an open conversation will allow you to see your partner’s relationship with money and if his or her priorities align with yours.

2. Show your cards

Vulnerability can be tough for some people, but it’s essential when talking about money. After your initial talk, set up a formal meeting to discuss finances. Each person should come prepared with account statements, income pay stubs, credit reports, insurance plans and invoices for any debt he or she owes. “The more formal you make it, the easier it is to share because you have tangible examples,” said Rochard. “If you’re headed toward marriage, you should feel comfortable enough to share your numbers.”

It’s important to talk about money before walking down the aisle.

3. Admit your faults

Everyone probably has a few regrets when it comes to money. Hiding your financial mistakes can lead to turmoil in your relationship, so Rochard suggests putting it out there from the start. “If you’re vulnerable, your partner will be too, and you can learn from each others’ mistakes,” she told Yahoo Finance. “Once you’re aware of the past, you can set future goals together.”

As the same time, it’s important to look out for red flags. If your partner is hiding spending or has a massive amount of debt that is not being actively paid down, don’t ignore it. Maybe you just need to have a conversation or perhaps you need to extend the engagement period to give him or her time to work things out. Remember: Once you’re married, your partner’s financial troubles become yours. 

4. Discuss future goals

If your partner wants to start a business, but you’re against the idea, talk about it. If you want your future children to attend expensive private schools, but your partner prefers public, have the discussion now. According to a 2015 survey from SunTrust Bank, 35% of people experience relationship stress over money. Another study published in the Family Relations Journal found that arguing over money is the top predictor of divorce. Getting on the same page sooner rather than later will help you manage expectations and navigate conflicts in the future.

5. Be realistic about your wedding

On The Bachelorette, Neil Lane supplied Lindsay’s $100,000 engagement ring free of charge. The show will also pay for the wedding if the couple agrees to broadcast it on live TV.

For real couples, spending huge amounts of money on rings and weddings can be crippling.

“I ask my clients if they are willing to risk their retirement or a home over an engagement ring or wedding,” Rochard told Yahoo Finance. “A $15,000 ring can buy you $75,000 more home because you usually have to put down a 20% down payment.”

In other words, the short-term pleasure of having a big diamond on your finger could cost you the future home of your dreams. Instead, focus on the bigger picture.

Rochard suggests buying a smaller ring, or even a fake one (no one will know!), or planning a shorter engagement—which often leads to spending less money. If a big wedding has always been your dream, then start saving early. “I tell people to start putting away $300 to $500 a month before they’re even engaged,” said Rochard.

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. 

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