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Dear Dave,
I’m getting married next summer. My fiancé and I are in agreement about how to handle money, and we both follow your plan. Do you recommend pre-marital counseling? If so, what do you feel are some of the important areas of agreement for couples before they get married?

– Allison

Dear Allison,
Congratulations! I’m glad you’re both on the same page with your finances, too.  I’ve worked with thousands of couples and numerous marriage counselors over the years. In that time, I’ve learned fights over money—and the resulting problems from those disagreements—are probably the biggest cause of divorce in America. In my opinion, in-depth pre-marital counseling is an absolute must. The idea of entering into something that’s supposed to be a lifelong commitment, without thoroughly addressing all the issues—and potential issues—is a really bad idea. 

   With that said, it’s been my experience that couples have a high probability of a successful marriage if they agree on four things, in detail, before the big day—kids, money, religion, and in-laws. With kids, the big question is do you want them? If so, how many and when? Are you going to let them run wild, or are you going to provide structure and make them behave?

   When it comes to money, something it sounds like you two are already in agreement on, get all your cards out on the table, and construct an intelligent game plan for your finances that you both agree on. Staying away from debt, living on a written, monthly budget, and saving for the future are important parts of this.  

   Also, be in agreement on religion. Statistically speaking, two people from the same faith have a better chance of making a marriage work. And finally, when it comes to your future in-laws, you need to learn who they are and what you’re getting into. What are they really like? What are the boundaries when it comes to their influence on your lives?

   All these topics should be discussed at length, dealt with, and agreed upon before the rings are exchanged. God bless you two, Allison!

—Dave

Money savings concept with coin stack and increasing columns of metal currency

Dear Dave,
My parents are getting up there in years, and they aren’t really prepared for when they pass away. They can’t afford life insurance at this point, and they also have a lot of debt. When they die, who will be liable for their debt?

-Tammi

Dear Tammi,
Any outstanding debt your parents have upon passing will likely go against their estate. If they have a positive net worth—meaning they owned more than they owed—there will be money left over after the debts are paid, and this could go toward an inheritance. If they have a negative net worth, which means they owed more than they owned, everything could be sold off to cover as much of the debt as possible. Regardless, you would only be held liable for any of their debt if you were a co-signer on the loans.

   I’d also suggest getting their permission to buy burial policies on them. If they won’t agree to this, you might have to save up money for their final expenses yourself. In most areas, $10,000 to $15,000 is enough to cover basic burial costs for two people.

—Dave

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