Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary Says He Forces Prenups on His Family

(Fortune) - Canadian centi-millionaire Kevin O'Leary is taking no chances when it comes to money and love, insisting he has strict rules for his family on merging finances with a partner.

Shark Tank star O'Leary said he's a "realist" about marriage and even living with a significant other, claiming people who merge their accounting are "nuts."

Appearing on Fox Business, the father-of-two added he "forbids" blended finances in his family and "forces prenups."

O'Leary, who made his fortune as the co-founder of tech company SoftKey Software Products, told host Stuart Varney: "I want financial due diligence on significant others because I'm a realist, I deal in the real world."

O'Leary may be right to excise caution as around 50% of American marriages end in divorce, costing an average of between $15,000 and $20,000.

Studies have also shown that financial problems were a major contributor to around half of divorces in the U.S.—whether it was arguing over money or a shortage of funds generally contributing to stress and arguing in the relationship.

"You need a prenup," he said. "It forces you to ask those questions of your potential partner: 'Do you have debt? Have you ever been bankrupt? Has your family ever been bankrupt?'

"These are questions of love because if you're building that financial pillar together it's because you want that harmony to last. I'd argue the prenup helps l'amore."

Studies also found that partners who discuss their finances tend to be more satisfied in their relationships—a premise O'Leary, who now runs VC investment platform O'Leary Ventures, agrees with.

But while shared financial goals are advocated for by experts, the man reportedly worth $400 million draws the line at blended financial identities.

"You must, in this society, maintain your own financial identity," O'Leary said. "Even if you have a long-term situation and anything would happen to your spouse—such as death, I hope that doesn't happen but it occurs—if you don't have your financial identity you're in the wilderness in America."

O'Leary said individuals "must have" their own credit rating, account, and investment accounts for "[their] own survival."

This is when to have the 'money talk'

The 69-year-old said there was a very obvious moment to discuss financials with a potential new partner: "Third date. Second glass of wine. You talk money, that's how it works."

O'Leary, a Western University alumni, said that this was ideal timing as by the third date it was established that both parties are interested. "This is very important information," he added.

And while the age of the average American getting married is around 28 for women and 30 for men, O'Leary added it doesn't matter if you're a retiree or a couple in your 20s—you still need the money talk.

"What is more responsible than discussing your financial future together?" O'Leary questioned.

Think of money like a baby

The average age of a first-time mom in the U.S. may be 27, but O'Leary also added that individuals need to think of their money as a child before they have another human to look after.

"Before you even have your first child, you have a baby. It's called 'Money,'" he said.

"It's sitting right at the table with you every day. Every day for breakfast: 'How's our financial situation, Money?' and Money looks up at you smiling if you have some, and it's crying if you don't. It's that simple."

And while the benefits of being open and honest about money are clear, millions of people will still shy away from the conversation.

Last year a study of 2,000 adults from financial planners Empower found 62% of Americans don't talk about their finances with friends and family, with 46% saying they also don't talk to their spouse or partner about money.

Indeed, while respondents said they'd rather talk about politics or death than money, 77% of those surveyed said they wanted to see society talking more widely about money—be it saving techniques, financial pitfalls or basic financial literacy.

O'Leary isn't the only expert advocating for frank discussion between partners.

Last year Fortune spoke to professor emerita at Stanford University, Myra Strober, and social innovator—and Strober’s former student—Abby Davisson about their book 'Money and Love.'

“These two sets of decisions, which society has taught us to keep apart—one comes from the head and one comes from the heart—really is not the case, and it’s not helpful to think about it in that way.

"Thinking about your life as a whole, with important money and love decisions to be made constantly in conversation with your significant other, is the main point of the book,” Strober said.

By Eleanor Pringle
March 27, 2024


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