When I got married 10 years ago, I had $17 in my bank account and a killer discount wedding dress. As I floated on a cloud of white tulle toward my tall, handsome husband at the end of the aisle, money wasn’t really on my mind.
Probably because I didn’t have any.
While I kept an open mind in many respects as I tied the proverbial knot that day, one thing that didn’t factor into my decision to marry the guy was our finances. Why would it? Not only did I bring absolutely nothing to the table financially — unless you count a pile of debt, which was an obvious deterrent (although clearly not a dealbreaker) for my financially sound husband — but my mind was, understandably, more romantically inclined.
Looking back, and especially after having purchased our first home and inherited the plethora of problems that come with that kind of purchase, it would have behooved us to consider our financial future — not to mention how those finances were to be spent — well before we got all dolled up and said our “I do’s.”
It’s not very rom-com worthy, but since my own march down the marital aisle, prenuptial agreements — legal contracts that couples sign prior to marriage that outline how money is to be spent and how property is handled during the marriage and in the event of a divorce — have grown exponentially. This trend will likely continue, too, since 69% of people who haven’t been married want to sign one when they do take that leap, and 67% would end their relationship if their partner refused to sign one.
Why are prenups becoming so popular? It’s probably not cynicism since marriages, while not happening as often or as early in life among our younger generations, seem to be lasting longer now than they have in recent decades. Divorce rates in the United States have also been dropping steadily since the 1980s, so clearly someone’s doing something right.
This apparent marital bliss could be due to a number of things, of course. Maybe there’s something to marrying when we’re more mature and settled in life; we might be less inclined to make a poor life-partner choice in our later years. Maybe people are making more money (doubtful) or perhaps they have better access to counselling or better connections with the right people — maybe it’s dating apps?
Or maybe it’s because of prenups.
Prenups lead to healthier relationships
According to a survey conducted by leading CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) professionals, the leading causes of divorce in marriage are incompatibility, infidelity — and money.
I know. I was shocked too.
We’ve all heard that the number one thing that most couples fight about is money, so it’s no great surprise that money issues (and miscommunication surrounding those money issues) are one of the top marital problems that lead to divorce. Poor communication about money and what to do with it ultimately leads to couples losing trust in each other, and we all know how well relationships work when there’s no trust to keep people stitched together.
Which is why it’s becoming more believable that prenups, when done right, can actually lead to healthier marriages. As I said somewhat controversially in my article outlining the simple agreement held by my husband and I, a “contract” can provide a sense of relief to those involved, especially when legal. A prenup that legally and clearly outlines how money will be spent throughout a marriage and, in the event of a divorce that may or may not take place, how those finances will be fairly divided between the two as they go their separate ways, is a form of protection for not one, but both parties.
This legally-enacted protection is now being seen more often by the world’s “enfianced” as, ironically, an act of love, and signing one could not only save both of your butts, but it can ease anxiety and stress over a potential separation down the road.
And stress is another relationship killer — it’s all starting to make more sense now, isn’t it? Prenups aren’t what we once judged them to be.
While it’s unlikely that a prenup will be a part of every marriage in the near future, there’s no question that prenups are on the rise — from 2017 to 2021, research shows that signed prenups rose by 3,000.
There are some plausible guesses as to why prenups are becoming more popular, especially when one or both parties have been married previously. Financial losses after separation and divorce can be catastrophic for some, so it’s no wonder signing a prenup becomes a must for many subsequent marriages.
Prenups have been getting a bad rap in previous decades — the go-to advice was usually something along the lines of “don’t marry that person; they only want your money.”
Thanks to millennials, however, that notion is starting to change.
As Kelly Frawley, a partner in the Matrimonial and Family Law Department at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, told Business Insider:
“There has been an uptick in prenuptial agreements with younger individuals who do not have family wealth to protect and individuals who are embarking on their first marriage.”
It’s not a surprise, really, when you look at the statistics. Adult children who grew up in divorced homes are much more motivated to sign a prenup before their own marriages, and those who have been divorced previously are still quite happy to protect themselves in their subsequent marriages, as they have proven to be in the past.
Clearly, prenups are no longer just for the rich and famous.
One of the most common misconceptions about prenups is that they are only to protect yourself in the event of a divorce, and since most of us aren’t Jeff Bezos (who probably should have had a prenup), it makes more sense not to bother.
But prenups cover so much more than just divorces.
Prenups cover not only the legalities and distribution of marital assets in the event of divorce — including important decisions like whether or not spousal support will be waived — but also the share of premarital debt, how funds and income will be allocated, and how household expenses will be divided during the marriage itself.
It’s not all about the dreaded “D” word.
Do you need a prenup?
A prenup is effectively a protective cover for both you and your spouse. While you might be insanely in love when you walk down the aisle, relationships tend to change over time; that “passion” might wither. That “withering” might — and often does — still result in the happy, loving companionship that we all strive for many years into our marriages, but it might also lead to divorce.
No two marriages are the same, and the that holds true for divorces too. That’s why prenups can be customized to meet the needs of both parties involved. A prenup can even include a legally protected split of business profits, and whether those shares remain equally enjoyed by both parties in the event of a divorce. That’s a good one to consider, too, because in 30% of signed prenups, at least one of the two involved owns a business. In this era of the “side hustle,” it might be prudent to protect future assets, should one or both of you suddenly rise to YouTube fame or sell a trillion hippo paintings on Etsy.
So do you need a prenup? It’s honestly up to you. Full disclosure: I didn’t sign one, if that wasn’t obvious. And while I wouldn’t push the issue now, I wouldn’t have been opposed to signing one when I got married — it’s not an insult. It’s just protection. It doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship. It doesn’t have to point to trust issues or gold digger tendencies. It’s just protection, and in this crazy economy, it might be worth signing one.
Already married? That’s okay — there is such a thing as a postnup. It’s never too late to secure your financial future, especially if you’re dependent on your partner.
I’ll close by urging some caution: if your partner is asking you to sign one, it’s wise to consider signing a prenup. Ending a relationship over a contract seems, at least to me, to be a big red flag.
For your partner.
Don’t be offended and consider it seriously. Negotiate a fair and loving agreement and enjoy a long marriage knowing that come what may, you’re both protected.
Now that’s true love.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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