Marrying for money isn't the worst idea in the world

Feb 12, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Image: Jenifer Correa/Flickr Https://www.flickr.com/photos/26023255@N03/8612002388/

Maybe gold diggers have it right after all. Most of us want to marry for love, not money. But what if we should really be marrying for both?

Money is extremely important in a relationship and especially a marriage. So how your guy deals with it shouldn't be overlooked.

"You really need to know what you're getting into," says Derek Gabrielsen, a wealth advisor with Strategic Wealth Partners in Independence, Ohio. "That's not to say you should only look for someone with money or someone who's good with money. But you don't just marry your husband or wife, you also marry their finances."

Here are five tips for how to handle money with your man instead of avoiding the issue altogether.

1. Talk about money openly

It's crucial that you chat about money with your significant other, even though it can be a sensitive, hot-button topic or you think it doesn't matter to you. "You may not care about money, but you still need to discuss it," says Gabrielsen. "It may not be the easiest subject to broach. But you always have to discuss money, ideally before you get married." Those conversations should continue after you tie the knot, too. Many couples hold regular "money meetings" to discuss the state of their finances.

2. Make money a factor when choosing a spouse

If the man who's won your heart is a major spender or has a mountain of debt, that could be a red flag. "If you marry someone with a significant amount of debt, that debt becomes yours as well," says Gabrielsen. So figure out where you both stand and be honest about whether it's a good match. "Part of being compatible with someone is having a financial path and agreeing on how to achieve it," he says. "I don't think it's the number one thing you should look at, but being compatible from a goals and financial standpoint is important."

3. Understand where your money is and what to do if something unexpected happens

Too often, says Gabrielsen, he sees one spouse running the show when it comes to household finances and the other having no clue about where the money is going. Big mistake. "Even if you don't want to be in charge of the money, you need to know where the assets are and whether you have an estate plan," he says. "You need to know what to do if something happens to your spouse."

4. Compromise

It's highly unlikely that the man you marry will be identical to you in his approach to money. That's OK. Couples need to meet in the middle when it comes to financial decisions they don't completely agree on. "It comes down to black and white numbers if you want to save a certain amount for retirement," says Gabrielsen. "But when you're deciding things like what kind of house to buy and how many vacations a year to take, it should be a compromise."

5. Be a team with a plan

Don't just wing it when it comes to tackling your finances. Instead, be strategic about it and work together. "You need to have a game plan," Gabrielsen advises. "Understand where you want to go and how you want to get there. That should be done jointly as a team. Both members of the team should agree to the plan. When you do that, it leads to a lot less fighting."

Marriage is a meeting of the minds. And your finances should be, too. So yes, money matters in love — quite a lot, as it turns out.

"Having a good financial strategy is part of a good relationship," Gabrielsen says. "It's important to be on the same page, especially when it comes to marriage."

More love and money

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How to avoid money arguments

Who handles the finances in your house?

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