Marriage and Money: Communication is Key
Do your Valentine's Day plans include a proposal? Congratulations! Before you get started on your journey together, however, it's important to start out on the right foot: an honest conversation about your finances and how you'll handle them as a married couple can help you deal with any existing or future debt before it becomes an issue.
Some couples have no problem having those honest conversations about their views on money and their current financial status. Others, however, have managed to get all the way to their engagement without ever having that talk. Most people agree that skirting the issue won't help you, especially once you're married and your finances are combined. Do you know what conversations you need to have with your fiancé before your marriage begins? Consider these key topics.
How Much Do You Want to Spend on the Wedding?
Your wedding may be one of the first big financial conversations you need to have with your future spouse. How much do you really have to spend on the big day? Have you always envisioned a big wedding, or do you prefer a quiet ceremony with a larger honeymoon? If finances are tight, do you want to put off the wedding day while you save up, or do you prefer a smaller wedding on a tight budget that will allow you to get married as soon as possible?
You should also have an honest conversation about who you can expect to contribute to your wedding--and whether or not both of you are comfortable allowing that to happen.
Be honest with your spouse about your desires and dreams. While it may be necessary to compromise on some key issues, you also don't want to start off your marriage with dishonesty. Once you reach a compromise, stick with it: don't try to sneak "just a few extras" past your spouse or ignore your budget as you're making key wedding decisions.
What Do Your Finances Look Like Now?
When you get married, your finances are combined. That means you need to know what your fiancé’s finances look like before you start paying bills together. Ask these key questions about each partner's financial health:
How much debt do you have, and from what?Do either of you have student loans? What about credit card debt? You don't just want to know a flat number about how much debt your partner has, but also how they acquired that debt.You’ll want to ask each other questions like “Have you ever considered debt consolidation?” Credit card debt, for example, may reflect poor spending decisions, while medical debt may simply be a result of an unexpected emergency.
What assets do you have?Have either of you put together substantial savings accounts? What about your investments? You need to know what your financial future looks like as a couple before you tie the knot.
How do you handle your finances?Some people are savers: they receive a great deal of gratification from putting money aside each month. Others are spenders: they want to buy the newest toys, and if they have money in their account, they're ready to spend it. How do you handle your spending habits? How does it match up with the way your partner handles theirs?
How Do You Envision Handling Your Finances?
Different couples find different methods that work for them when it comes to handling their finances. Some couples choose to share a single joint bank account with two debit cards. Others prefer to maintain separate accounts even after the wedding. You might choose for each of you to pay specific bills, or you might prefer to set it up so that each of you contributes a certain amount to a bill account each paycheck, which is then used to pay the bills.
Some couples are able to easily fall into a pattern of handling those key decisions after they're married, but for others, it's necessary to have a conversation. What will work for you and your spouse? Do you have similar financial goals and habits, or do you need to compromise? By discussing it now, before the wedding, you'll help set yourselves up for financial success.
If one partner is a saver, while the other partner is a spender, how will you handle this in your marriage? Some ideas:
- Do you want to commit to moving a certain percentage of each paycheck to savings for a rainy day?
- Are you committed to paying down debt, or are you comfortable making minimum payments?
- Do you want to check in with each other before you make a purchase over a certain amount?
- Have you considered assigning a specific amount of "play money" to each partner per paycheck?
What are Your Future Financial Goals?
When you consider the future, what do you imagine? Do you want to own a home someday? What about your retirement: do you have an existing retirement account, or do you need to start contributing to your retirement accounts soon?
It's also important to consider how you want to handle your finances as future events change your home and family. Do you want one partner to be able to stay home with future kids, or should both of you work? When do you want to retire? Make sure you have a solid understanding of how both of you want to handle your financial future.
After the Wedding: Financial Check-Ins
The financial conversation doesn't end when you get married. Money is one of the biggest points of contention for many couples, but ignoring it won't make things better--and it might make it harder when you do need to have a discussion. If you've celebrated a milestone anniversary, whether your first or your fiftieth, make sure you occasionally have financial check-ins with each other. Ask:
- Are your finances on track? Is there any area where you are struggling?
- Have either of you picked up financial habits that are detrimental to your financial stability?
- Are your financial goals still aligned?
- Do you have any financial needs that are going unmet?
Heading into marriage makes a conversation about finances a necessity. Do you need a little help moving into that important conversation? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you set up your financial future.