No one really wants to talk about money, especially when you’re in the middle of falling in love or planning a wedding. There are a million more enjoyable things to talk about, like wedding flowers or paint drying… Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most important conversations to have with your soon-to-be spouse. From previous debt and spending habits, to joint accounts and saving for a house, you’ll feel much more secure about your marriage if you already know the answers to the major money questions.
How to Talk About Money
Considering the uncomfortable nature of the conversation, it can be difficult to find the right time or way to bring up money habits. As with conflict resolution, we need to be aware of the right time, place and attitude for this important conversation, and it’s good to be aware that your fiancé may not have the same opinions and beliefs about money as you. In fact, opposites attract, so there is a strong likelihood that one person is a saver while the other is the spender. Keep this in mind and be open to negotiation and honest conversation as you prepare to join your lives together.
Plan for the Conversation
First, make a plan to sit down together and discuss your finances, and remind your partner that you’re not worried, but just want to be prepared. Set the tone, and make sure you don’t surprise your fiancé at the end of a dinner date by randomly asking how much debt they have. As you prepare for your conversation, know which information you should bring to the table: consider sharing your annual income, current bank balances, credit card debt and loans (including student loans), and your credit score. If you’re nervous about the conversation, write down the information and swap papers with your partner.
Another option is to ease into the conversation instead of swapping numbers. Share something about your financial habits, and ask questions that are less direct (“Are you a saver or a spender?” is an easier question than “How much do you have in savings?”). If you’re nervous about sharing the level of debt you have, feel free to preface that part of the conversation with your reason for debt, rather than just the number. Maybe you lost a job a while ago and are still recuperating, or maybe you really enjoy shopping after a bad day and forget to watch your spending habits. Remember, your partner will eventually find out your exact situation and your financial habits, so it’s better to share then to get found out.
Topics to Discuss
The money talk can be a lot more involved than just sharing the amount in your account. After talking about your current situation, start discussing what you’d like your financial situation to look like. Share your money philosophy – essentially, are you happy as a saver/spender, or are there habits you would like to change? Is your credit score something you think about? Disclose any financial obligations you’ll be bringing into the marriage, such as child support, student loans or a timeshare.
This could also be a great time to start making goals and cutting overlapping expenses. You may choose to wait until after the wedding to start making any changes, but you can consider getting a shared cell phone bill or gym membership to reduce costs. Consider what is important to each of you, and establish goals that make sense based on the kind of lifestyle you want. If you’re both comfortable with having a little personal debt, that may not be the main focus, but you may want to consider ways to raise your credit score if you both want to own a house in the next few years. Ask questions like:
What amount of available money does each of us need to have to feel comfortable?
Will there be a savings plan for the first house?
Do we plan to keep trading houses as we can afford it?
How much credit card debt or home equity loan debt is acceptable?
Do we want to have a savings account or live more spontaneously?
When do we hope to start saving for retirement?
What will be the plan for children’s education?
No matter how different you are right now, remember that there is always a way to compromise and create a plan that will work for you both. If concerns arise, remember that a premarital counselor has the tools to help you create a game plan.
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