Financial Tips

The Best Way To Bring Up Getting a Prenup, and Why Doing It May Protect Your Financial Health

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Photo: Getty Images/fizkes
A prenuptial agreement is a contract that’s drawn up before marriage to set out how assets and liabilities should be divided between a couple in the event of a divorce. And while they stand to offer plenty of benefits, they can also stir up unsavory emotions when partners suggest their use. “Some might say it’s showing an expectation of mistrust or insecurity," says financial coach Kim Uzzell. But given the lack of evidence to suggest that marriages with a prenup in place are more likely to fail than those without, Uzzell contends the rough reputation many have for the concept is misguided. "Rather than setting yourself up to fail in your marriage, you’re building a solid, trusting, honest, and respectful foundation for your future as a married couple,” she adds. But even so, knowing how to bring up a prenup to your partner can be tricky.

Some of the first academic research on prenups ever, which was recently published study in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, analyzed 586 anonymous Reddit threads with over 26,000 comments about prenups and then compiled the findings to help couples easily manage the conversation. The prevailing advice for speaking to a partner who is not onboard with the concept of prenups? Try to do so using metaphors. Comparing prenups to health, car, or home insurance was found to be a helpful way to reframe a potentially negative perception into a positive, protective measure to prepare for the worst, just in case.

“No one goes into a marriage with the intention or expectation of it failing," Uzzell says. But even so, divorces happen—and they happen often enough that it can be beneficial to consider what happens if things don't go according to your plan of wedded bliss forever. Below, get more background on what prenups are, why discussing prenups can be meaningful for preserving your financial health, and, finally, ideas for how to bring up a prenup to your partner.

Why couples might consider a prenup

To backpedal a bit, “a prenup sets out a couple’s rights regarding income, property, and debts, [including] what should happen to any inheritance that’s passed down to just one party, and what happens to things that are acquired together, such as joint purchases,” says Uzzell. In other words, it’s basically a “who gets what” agreement drawn up before two people get married. And considering financial issues can be a major cause of stress within relationships, having a prenup in place can actually provide some welcome clarity and protection for all parties involved.

How? For starters, having a prenup in place can reduce time and money spent on litigation amid divorce proceedings, as well as not add to already heightened emotions surrounding the whole process.

There's also the consideration of wanting to protect what you currently have. “With many couples now marrying later in life, having already accumulated wealth of their own, or marrying for the second or third time, perhaps with children from previous relationships, there’s a good reason to want to protect their assets for their own children and grandchildren, rather than to risk a divorce court handing 50 percent over to the other party,” Uzzell says.

“It gives peace of mind that you’re staying together for the right reasons…rather than because you can’t afford to leave or don’t want to risk losing what you have in a divorce court." —financial coach Kim Uzzell

And while it's often assumed that the person who makes more money or comes into the marriage with more already saved is the one who will benefit from the prenup, Uzzell reminds that the agreement can also protect the party who makes less or, for example, contributes to the family by being a full-time caretaker to children. “I believe it gives peace of mind that you’re staying together as a couple for the right reasons, for love, commitment, fun, children, rather than because you can’t afford to leave or don’t want to risk losing what you have in a divorce court."

How to bring up a prenup to your partner

When discussing prenups with your partner, going the studied Reddit route of comparing it to buying other forms of insurance can help your partner see it more objectively and less through a lens of having diminished faith in the success of the partnership. For example, Uzzell says, “you don’t buy a car expecting to have a horrific motor accident, but you’re prepared for the ‘what if’ by having appropriate insurance in place.”

Another technique is to positively frame it to prove your dedication to the relationship, like Uzzell did when discussing a prenup with her second husband. “Although we both had assets of our own, he was coming into this relationship with more, financially, to lose than I was, and I wanted him to know that I was with him for his love, and the fun future that we have ahead of us, and not for any element of his money,” she says.

And although metaphors can be lighthearted and helpful, if they still don't make you feel comfortable enough to bring up the subject, you can also consult a financial counselor for advice, to answer questions, and to alleviate any concerns. “Marriages are built and sustained on honesty, so don’t shy away from this,” says Uzzell. “It may be an awkward topic to broach, but if you go into a marriage with money concerns—whether you have a little of it or a lot—you could be opening yourself up to a lifetime of worrying about the topic unnecessarily, when that clarity and certainty could have been reached earlier on.”

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