Marriage season is here, oh yes, is it here. Although you've probably had at least one friend stressing over the flowers or ranting about catering, it's less likely that you've heard anyone discussing the pros of a prenup. Despite prenups being on the rise, there is still a huge disparity between the one third of Americans that say they make sense and the less than five percent of couples that actually have one. That 30 percent gap may seem huge, but it sort of adds up— to even get married in the first place with such high divorce rates you have to believe that, even though divorce is so common, it won't happen to you, that you're different. The same reasoning says prenups are good for other people, you're different. But, statistically, you're not. And a prenup is an important way to protect yourself. I get it, it's not fun to talk about. In the middle of all of the "yes, I want to spend my life with you, you, you and only you" working you up into a love-stunned frenzy, talking about a prenup is the romantic equivalent of a cold shower.
Why they're important for women
It's not fun, but it's important. It's so important. Because as personal finance expert Suz Orman says:
"Hope is not a financial plan ... The time to plan for a divorce is not when you're in a state of hate."
It's an unfortunate truth that women make less money than men. Which may be why women are a driving force behind the current rise in prenup popularity. Celeste Watkins-Hayes is absolutely right to point out that there needs to be more financial safety-nets for women outside of prenuptial agreements, but it's one of the few tools currently available.
They're not just for celebrities
We've all heard of celebrity divorces getting messy because they didn't sort out their finances in advance, but don't think prenups are just for the rich and famous. Everyone can benefit. There is a common misconception that prenups only protect one party who is much wealthier when entering the marriage from losing this wealth in case of divorce. Not true. Prenups are incredibly malleable and can be used in a lot of different ways, including ensuring that one partner who may not contribute as much income to the marriage because she is, say, raising children, is entitled to money and assets in case of divorce because her contribution to the marriage is still valued. Maybe you have this as a sort of verbal agreement or you assume it's a tacit understanding, but you never know when someone will turn litigious or vindictive in the case of divorce. Having this in writing is important.
And it's not just for wealth— they also can be used to manage debt. Terry Savage describes the importance of prenups for debt in Business Insider:
"These days, with even lower income people coming into relationships with debt from college, credit cards, or obligations for child support, it might be wise to segregate these debt obligations and discuss whose income will be used to pay them."
You can customize yours
They're not a rigid one-size-fits all format, they can be tailored to the current situation and needs of the particular couple.
It's important to be aware that you're still taking a leap of faith— even prenups are not a guarantee. They can be challenged and thrown out in court, but judges will always consider the intended agreement. It's worth having the groundwork in place.
It's going to be an awkward conversation. But it's too important not to have it. Even if you don't end up signing the document, at the very least please, please, please have a frank and open conversation about money before you get married.
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