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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Herbst

Marriage and Money: Our Postnup Journey

Updated: May 9

Last year, I attended CampFI in Colorado Springs. The host Stephen asked us to introduce ourselves, and share what we wanted out of the event. I softly mentioned I wanted to learn more about postnuptial agreements as my husband Joe and I never got around to our prenup before we got married. I asked if anyone had one and would be willing to share their experience. In a room of ~60 people who are, for the most part, much better at finances than the average person, only one actually committed to a prenup. Only one!


I expected this audience to be smarter than that! I thought it was just my hidden secret that I had left this huge part of my financial planning unchecked. I now realized, I wasn’t alone. 


Only 1 in 5 married couples have a prenup, yet 50% of US adults say they support having one (source: Axios).

We wanted a prenup, but still didn't do it


Joe and I had all intentions of doing a prenup, but two things largely got in our way. First, we were busy. After getting engaged, we had to plan a wedding. We also went on a 3-month trip to Europe. We simply never set time aside to tackle this, and time slipped away. Apparently this is a very common reason as to why couples don’t ever get around to doing a prenup, even if they want one. Second, we didn’t really know where to start. We are both DIYers and felt uncomfortable with the idea of hiring a lawyer to start this process. We feared we might be royally misunderstood by a third party, be pushed into a complex document neither of us wanted, or in the worst case scenario, be led astray and coerced into “fighting” for more than our individual fair share. 


It felt weird after so many years of working on our finances intimately together, that all of a sudden we’d hire separate lawyers and battle it out on paper. But this perception, probably cemented in us from pop culture, was completely wrong. It’s very possible to draft a prenup that actually sets your relationship up for success. And solidifies your partnership.  


I guess we were too excited for our wedding to focus on our prenup!


Realizing a DIY postnup wasn't going to work


At first we thought that maybe we could come up with some sort of document on our own and get it notarized. But then with some guidance from those who have gone through divorce, we began to realize that how we personally view our finances is not the same as how a court of law would view it. A home-made document might not be properly enforceable. And that actually all that legal jargon is kind of important (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you view it). The possibilities of what could go wrong seemed endless. For example, Joe and I could have come up with the document together, but then later on one of us could simply argue that they felt intimidated and forced into signing such a document without the support of a lawyer, in which case our DIY postnup would get thrown out the window.


Finding the right guidance


An amazing podcast episode was recommended to me called “Why you’re (probably) wrong about prenups” from BiggerPockets. Aaron Thomas of Prenups.com is featured and he shares a whole bunch of earth shattering takeaways. This one in particular really struck me!


Individual assets may not be considered yours in a divorce. Going into a marriage you have separate property (assets you came into the marriage with), and then you will likely acquire marital property (anything that you or your spouse obtained during your marriage). Many married couples might have, say, individual accounts for personal expenses and then joint accounts for family expenses. But when legal separation happens, many are surprised to find that their own individual accounts are actually considered marital property by the state simply because they obtained them after marriage. So without a prenup saying otherwise, that money is up for grabs in a divorce!


I hated the idea of the State deciding what was best for me and Joe in the event of a divorce, so we decided to take our first step. The podcast impressed me so much that I actually reached out to Aaron for a consultation. And ultimately, we ended up hiring him for our postnup. I love that he gets the FIRE movement, and wasn’t the least bit surprised at our unique approach to finances. He also emphasizes how a prenup is meant to help you cement your values in your marriage. He was reliable and easy to get in touch with. And he had tons of great free resources on his website like 7 Steps to a Marriage-Saving Prenup 


I just love the messaging on his website so much, I wanted to share a quick snippet of it here*. 

Source: Prenups.com


Working in collaboration


Typically, each spouse needs their own lawyer for a prenup or postnup, especially if they want independent advice. But Joe and I wanted to work on this together just like we do on all other financial decisions. By "waiving the conflict of interest", Aaron was able to legally represent me, but then work collaboratively with the both of us on the creation of the postnup. And in this manner, Joe did not need to hire his own lawyer, as long as he was given the option to. With that said, it's worth noting that in some places, like California, both spouses legally need to be represented by an attorney, but that wasn't the case here in Utah.


I am not an expert on pre or postnups. I’ve never been divorced.  But I can say that sitting down with my husband and discussing the terms of our financials in the event of a future separation cemented our marriage even further. I believe we have earned an even higher level of trust in each other and that there are fewer unknowns. And of course, we are happy to have hired an expert third party to help us navigate our perspectives on money and make sure they are held up in a court of law.  


Some final thoughts


My recommendation is to sit down with your partner and really explore what a prenup might look like. If you’ve been married for a while, a postnup is still a great idea. Hire the right person who gets you and your partner’s vision. I am literally so pleased to see that our postnup is so tailored to us – it even mentions the words “financial independence” in it! And then know that what is written isn’t finalized forever. You can iterate over time by making amendments and maintaining new agreements in writing. 


My true hope is that a prenup will solidify your relationship with your partner further. And hey, maybe there is a world in which it actually does the opposite and makes you realize that maybe you and your partner are not so much on the same page about things. And that maybe you're not even reading the same book.... better to know these things up front, before taking what is a huge step towards marriage! That's at least my opinion anyways.


 

Notes:

*I’m writing this post on my own volition. This isn’t an advertisement for Prenups.com. I just think it’s a really great example of what a prenup process should look like. 


Disclaimer:

The information contained in the Yield & Spread website, course materials and all other related content is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice, and may not be suitable for every individual. Yield & Spread is not a registered investment, legal or tax advisor or a broker/dealer.


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