My wife Jaime and I are celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary this month! It’s been an amazing journey but, like most marriages, we’ve had our fair share of bumps along the way - including plenty of stress over money.
Money is the leading cause of stress in relationships, which is why it’s so important to have conversations about money early in your relationship (and throughout). With that in mind, I’d like to share 5 money conversations you should have before getting married. If you’re already married and haven’t had these conversations yet, consider having them now; better late than never!
What Debt Are We Bringing In To This Marriage?
Marriage is about two people becoming one - joining on goals, dreams, and life overall. It’s important to get on the same page about what your financial starting point is in a marriage - including any debt either of you are bringing in.
While debt before marriage doesn’t become legally co-owned by your spouse, two people building a life together should understand what barriers are in their way. Debt can be a big barrier to future plans, so knowing your starting point together will help you get off to the right start.
Should We Combine Our Finances Or Keep Them Separate?
There’s no wrong answer to this question, but it’s one you need to decide on. How will you handle bills and other expenses after you get married?
Many couples choose to combine their finances, putting the money into joint accounts and managing their money together. If you choose this path, make sure you agree on who is responsible for submitting bill payments and have a plan for how to make joint money decisions. Money stress often comes from one spouse spending when the other would prefer to save.
Other couples choose to keep finances separate, splitting up bills and maintaining their own accounts. If you choose this path, make sure you know who is responsible for each bill and that you have a plan for shared expenses. Many expenses in a marriage are for joint responsibilities (like a mortgage) and for joint fun (like travel). Know ahead of time how you’ll each contribute to these.
Regardless, your decision to split or combine finances should be at least partially driven by the beliefs that each of you have about money.
What Are Our Money Beliefs?
It’s fairly common that spouses have different money beliefs; one may be a natural saver while the other loves to shop. Understanding how your spouse views money (and sharing your beliefs with them) will make future money conversations a whole lot easier. Here are topics to consider:
- Which is more natural for you, saving or spending?
- When is debt worth it?
- What’s a good emergency fund look like?
Perhaps most important though, is discussing your financial goals and priorities.
What Are Our (Financial) Goals and Priorities?
Marriage is about becoming a team and creating a great life together. We’ve found that this really comes down to creating shared priorities and goals and then working toward them together.
While your goals and priorities will certainly change over time, you can get a jump-start on a great marriage by discussing what your dreams are early on.
Do you want to have kids or not? If yes, do you both plan to work outside the home or will one of you stay home?
Do you want to start your own business? Travel to a foreign country? Own a house? Retire early?
Think about what your dream life would look like and share it with your future spouse. Listen to their dream intently. While you may not paint the same picture, you can almost certainly create an even better dream when you put your dreams together.
This discussion is a great starting point for talking about trade-offs. What are you willing to give up to make your shared dream a reality? What do you spend on that’s not as important to you as the dream you came up with?
How Can We Keep The Financial Conversation Going?
While it’s important to have financial conversations before marriage, it’s just as important to keep the conversation going after you tie the knot.
At the start of each year, Jaime and I sit down and set our financial goals for the year. We talk about what’s important for us to accomplish and list them in priority order. Throughout the year, we work towards them, checking each off as we get there. We also track our spending and have regular discussions about how our spending matches up with our budget (and ultimately with our goals).
Other couples have monthly “money dates” where they take a date and spend the time talking about their finances. While that might not sound like the most romantic date, think about it in this way instead - it’s a chance to talk about your hopes, your dreams, and how you can make those a reality for each other.
When you put it that way, it sounds like a pretty awesome way to spend an evening together!