Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Heart To Heart

By Lois Barrett

It’s a conversation that makes most people more uncomfortable than talking to their mother about their sex life. But according to Certified Financial Planner™ Sheila Jacobs it’s something that really has to be done.

“Couples need to have a conversation about financial matters,” Jacobs says. “And it needs to happen before the wedding, not after.”

But how do you bring up a matter that can be both delicate and, depending on how you’ve been handling your affairs, well...embarrassing?

Here are some tips from Jacobs on how to strike up what could, arguably, be the most important conversation of your marriage.

Set A Date

Treat this like you would any other important date. Discuss a time and place to meet with your future spouse, and once you’ve hammered out the details--ink the appointment into your datebook. (And no, it’s not okay to cancel, even if you get cold feet.)

Before The Big Day

Jacobs advises that each partner take stock of their own financial situation, prior to the meeting. “Organize all of your financial documents and get a clear sense of what you own versus owe,” says Jacobs.

Putting It All On The Table

According to Jacobs you should think like a business person. “Your household is like your own little corporation, you have to decide how you are going to run it,” she says.

One of your first steps should be taking a look at your cash flow—what’s coming in and what’s going out. And Jacobs advises that you use this time to make decisions about issues such as whether you’ll merge your debt or continue to handle it as individuals.

Hopes And Dreams

Do you want to buy a house, have children, start a college savings plan for those children? Whatever you decide, make sure your goals have time frames associated with them.

Once your goals are set, allocate your assets accordingly. For instance, if you and your intended decide you want to buy a house, put a concrete strategy in place to save for your down payment.

Jacobs advises that you break your savings plan down into monthly payments. “If a couple wants to save $30,000 for a down payment on a house in five years, they should make a commitment to save $500 a month for that time period,” she says.

In order to attain your goals, be prepared to compromise and sacrifice. Translation: You may have to give up your daily trips to Starbucks or your weekly manicures. “It’s no longer just about you, you’re part of a team now,” says Jacobs. “You have to weigh the sanctity of your vows against some of your more superficial needs.”

Philadelphia-based Certified Financial Planner™ Sheila Jacobs practices what she preaches, she had a heart-to-heart with her intended, several months before her wedding.

Sheila Jacobs can be reached at 215-860-5233

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