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People’s spending habits and other money issues are often overlooked in premarital planning

For couples planning to get married, a meeting with a financial professional is an increasingly important step along the way, advisers say.

It’s a “function of the fact that people are accumulating assets before marriage, getting married later in life, and seeing more and more people getting divorced,” says Lawrence D. Mandelker, a trusts and estates attorney with Seyfarth Shaw LLP in New York who has been referring more clients to financial advisers for these services.

Financial professionals who offer premarital financial planning say they work with couples beyond the nitty-gritty details, such as who is going to pay the bills and whether the couple will pool their money or keep their accounts separate. They’re taking on a counseling role to help couples deal with the emotions that can complicate financial decisions—for instance, the stress that can strain a relationship when one partner tries to exercise too much monetary control.

“We’re more psychologists in this position than we are financial planners,” says Matthew Celenza, managing partner at Boulevard Family Wealth, an investment advisory firm in Beverly Hills, Calif., who has helped couples with premarital financial planning.

“It’s the root of so many problems in couples’ relationships,” says Jeremy S. Office, founder of Maclendon Wealth Management in Delray Beach, Fla., who regularly counsels clients on premarital financial issues.

Some professionals bill an hourly rate for these services, while others don’t charge separately for the premarital financial planning they do for existing clients or children of clients. Some don’t charge prospective clients, while others base their fees on the complexity of the situation. Couples generally meet with their advisers anywhere from one to five times, though it depends largely on what the issues are.

No secrets

For the process to work, couples should be willing to openly discuss their spending habits, assets, liabilities and financial goals, says Laurie Boore-Clor, a 37-year-old doctor in Ann Arbor, Mich., who went through premarital financial counseling with her fiancé, now husband, about two years ago.

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