I was flipping through Suze Orman's book, The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke, the other day, and I came across that quote.
I think it's so important for people to go eyes-wide-open into marriage. Even though movies usually end with the wedding and the implication that everyone lives happily ever after, real life keeps on truckin'.
Unfortunately, marriage alone doesn't really solve problems. All the problems that were there before you got married are still going to be there when you say "I do" (or "Hell yes!" or whatever it is you're going to say in your ceremony to seal the deal).
It's easy to get distracted by things like flowers-shoes-dresses-centerpieces-cakes--oh my! For many people, those things are fun and light and airy.
It's harder to think through the really hard stuff of marriage, like, "What will it be like when we merge our money? How will we do it? What are the potential pitfalls? What do we need to proactively do to make it work?"
A simple answer to a complicated questions is: talk, talk, talk. As a couple, it's important to sit down together and figure out how it's going to work.
One question to start with is: "What kind of financial person am I? What kind of financial person are you? How will our two [potentially] different styles work together?"
If you think about a spectrum of personal financial management from saver <----> spender, most of us fall at different places. I am definitely on the saver side (I pay my credit cards off in full every month, and I try to temper my consumeristic urges and impulses by reminding myself of my bigger, long-term financial goals). But I am not all the way to the left. I don't save as much money as people with more miserly tendencies. I eat out at least three times a week, and I spend money on things like movie and concert tickets, as well as more expensive things like weekend trips.
Matt is also on the saver side, although we're not at the exact same point on the spectrum. I would classify us as a saver-saver couple.
Here are the other combinations:
Saver-Spender: These couples can balance each other out: "Let's save for our future child's education!" versus "Let's seize the moment and enjoy life!" They can also get into a lot of arguments about how to spend money. Potentially, the saver can feel bitter that s/he has to be the responsible one all the time. Oftentimes, a saver will work hard to pay off debt, while a spender is comfortable accumulating more debt. To make this relationship work, both parties have to figure out a system that works for them. One idea might include a personal allowance every month that each person is allowed to spend as they please. Beyond that, everything else has to get decided jointly. In this relationship, it's particularly important to set joint financial goals, so the spender is more invested in tempering his/her spending habits as necessary.
One of my engaged friends is in this situation right now. Her fiance has a significant amount of debt (for various reasons), and they're working together to figure out a way to work down the debt and live in a way that will prevent new debt from accumulating. It's difficult work, but it can be done.
Spender-Spender: This couple is probably the life of the party! Unfortunately, financial fun is usually a short-term experience and not a long-term one. If your income is significantly larger than your expenditures, it's less of a problem (unless there's an emergency and you don't have an emergency fund). However, it's often true that people spend whatever money they have to spend, so spenders can easily find themselves with credit card debt. Credit card debt is the worst, since you actually end up spending more money for your money. Couples in this situation have to figure out what their goals are and put systems in place that help them reach their goals, despite their spending tendencies (think automatic bank transfers so your money goes directly from your paycheck to various saving accounts).
I don't mean to oversimplify the situation by boxing couples into one of three categories. The nuances look different from couple to couple, depending on where each person is on the spectrum. Introspection is key in this situation.
Matt and I joined our finances fairly soon after our engagement. We used that period as a trial run. We put systems in place that would make the transition smoother.
Now that we're married, we're still refining the system and figuring out what works (yes, by talking, talking, talking).