As two people in love, you most likely have already shared secrets, dreams, fears, and even your favorite dessert and movie genres. But have you thought about the money conversations you should have before marriage? As you stand on the brink of a lifetime commitment, remember that marriage intertwines not just two souls but also two financial narratives.
While love will be the backbone of your union, a clear understanding of fiscal matters acts as the safety net, ensuring the future you’re building stands on solid ground. After all, money matters will influence your daily lives, choices, and future plans. If you’re wondering where to start these money conversations for couples, read on to discover the key topics you shouldn’t ignore.
1. Debts, Assets, and Credit Scores
Tackling the subject of debts and credit scores can be one of the most challenging conversations you’ll have with your partner. A recent article by Bankrate highlighted that many people avoid checking their credit card statements and balances. That said, it might even be harder to talk about debts or unfavorable credit scores in an effort to keep your relationship afloat.
Our founder, Dr. Dana McNeil, in her contribution to the Bankrate’s article, explains this aversion by saying that as humans, we instinctively shirk away from discomfort, opting instead for actions that bring immediate pleasure. As a result, it’s tempting to sweep those daunting numbers under the rug, believing that hiding them might spare both you and your partner any unease.
But here’s the catch: sidestepping these vital details can deepen your financial predicament. Revealing debts and assets will help you forge a partnership based on trust and transparency. Are there lingering student loans, credit card debts, or perhaps an inherited property or investment portfolio?
Sharing these details paints a clearer picture that paves the way for joint financial planning. Similarly, your credit scores indicate your financial health and influence future endeavors like securing a home loan. So, take a deep breath, open that financial closet, and have this conversation.
2. Past Financial Mistakes and How They Were Resolved
Just as you discuss past relationships or personal challenges, past financial mistakes should be no exception. Whether it was an ill-advised investment or excessive spending, understanding what went awry and how it was addressed offers invaluable insights. This conversation sheds light on one’s financial character, resilience, and learning curve.
By discussing past missteps and their resolutions, you both can gain confidence in each other’s ability to manage and recover from financial setbacks. This conversation also fosters understanding and helps you devise strategies to avoid similar pitfalls in the future.
3. Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
Discussing short-term goals like buying a home or embarking on dream vacations ensures you’re both working towards immediate shared objectives. On the other hand, long-term goals, such as planning for retirement or your children’s education, help shape the broader trajectory of your lives together.
Discussing these goals ensures you both row in the same direction, making your shared dream of financial stability more achievable. By aligning on these ambitions, you ensure that every financial move supports your mutual aspirations, paving the way for a secure and harmonious future together.
4. Expectations Around Saving Money, Spending Limits, and Splurges
Some of the best strategies to prevent monetary strains in your marriage are to establish a flexible budget together and identify areas to cut back on unnecessary spending. However, it’s not just about numbers and cutting expenditures. It’s about understanding and respecting each other’s values and priorities.
Agree on how much of your joint income you aim to save, your personal thresholds for everyday spending, and how you view larger, luxury expenditures or splurges. Setting clear expectations around saving and spending creates a financial plan that caters to both.
Moreover, it’s vital to keep the lines of communication open and allow room for adjustments as circumstances and aspirations evolve. The Gottman Institute advises that if you have to adjust your budget, ensure that “the money that moves in and out of your household budget should serve to support and enhance your core values as a couple”. Embracing this approach will strengthen your financial foundation and deepen the trust and understanding between you.
6. Merging Finances or Considering a Hybrid Approach
Do you merge everything, create a shared financial pool, or adopt a hybrid approach? The latter might mean having a joint account for shared expenses like mortgages or utilities while maintaining separate accounts for personal spending. While a merged account signifies unity and collective purpose, maintaining separate accounts can honor individuality.
Choosing between fully merging finances or a hybrid approach is about finding a balance that respects both partners’ comfort levels, ensures financial transparency, and upholds mutual trust. Ensure that you settle on a financial structure that ensures both clarity and freedom, striking a balance between collective goals and personal empowerment.
7. Allocating Funds for Emergency Savings, Investments, and Personal Expenses
Before diving into a shared future, it’s essential to strategize how you’ll cushion unexpected hurdles and plan for prosperity. Will a portion of your joint income be set aside for rainy days? How will you prioritize and diversify investments for future security, and how will you manage individual expenses without encroaching upon shared goals?
The conversation ensures you’re prepared for life’s ebbs and flows. In doing so, you’re not just planning for prosperity—you’re fortifying your partnership against unforeseen storms. It defines your collective approach to risk, future planning, and individual autonomy.
8. Deciding on Shared or Separate Investment Goals and Strategies
A pivotal point of discussion is whether to pursue shared or separate investment goals and strategies. This conversation is more than just a monetary decision, as it reflects your shared aspirations and individual dreams. Some couples might find unity in investing towards mutual goals, while others maintain distinct portfolios to cater to personal ambitions.
Regardless of the path you choose, it’s essential to be transparent and communicative about investment intentions and risk appetites. This conversation ensures that your financial journey progresses hand in hand, fostering both collective growth and individual fulfillment.
9. Discussing Strategies to Pay Off Current Debts
You or your partner could have lingering student loans, credit cards, mortgages, or other debts– and this should be a top priority in money conversations for couples. Whether it’s joint debt, which both of you are accountable for, or individual debt brought into the union by one, you need a strategy for its payoff. Paying off shared debt should be a collaborative journey, necessitating mutual concessions, strategizing priorities, and leveraging smart payoff techniques.
When only one partner comes into the marriage with existing debt, it’s understandable that the other may be unable to offer direct financial assistance. However, you should discuss how you can work together to clear the individual debt. For instance, you can help your spouse by taking on additional household responsibilities to ensure they work more hours or support them in finding a better job.
10. Understanding the Importance of Wills and Estate Planning
While the joyous journey of marriage is full of dreams and aspirations, it’s also essential to chart out plans for life’s unpredictable paths. Understanding the importance of wills and estate planning is one such prudent conversation you should engage in. This conversation ensures that, in the event of unexpected life twists, your shared assets and wishes are managed precisely as intended.
When you address the distribution of assets, you safeguard each other and potentially your future family from legal complications and financial uncertainties. The discussion also ensures peace of mind and a safety net, ensuring that love and care persist beyond life’s unpredictable turns.
11. Planning for Expenses Like Childcare, Education, and Extracurricular Activities
The Gottman Institute explains that “having a baby is a joyous experience, but even the best relationships are strained during the transition from duo to trio.” As you anticipate the shared joy of parenthood, it’s vital to map out the accompanying financial terrain. Childcare, education, and extracurricular activities all come with price tags, and you should be prepared to handle them.
Have conversations about which type of childcare aligns with your values and budget and how you will handle daycare costs if both of you work. Are private schools or specialized training on the cards? What about piano lessons, soccer camps, or ballet?
Addressing these topics early on helps in anticipating costs and establishing a shared vision for your child’s upbringing. Planning for these expenses ensures that you’re well-prepared to provide the best for your child and enjoy every milestone without undue financial stress.
12. How to Handle Financial Responsibilities and Roles
Money conversations for couples should focus on issues like who takes the helm when it comes to budgeting, bill payments, or investment decisions. Should one manage daily expenses while the other focuses on long-term investments?
It’s not just about sharing financial-related tasks; it’s about recognizing each other’s strengths, vulnerabilities, and comfort zones in the financial realm. When you have this conversation, you set the tone for mutual respect, understanding, and teamwork in managing your combined resources.
13. How to Plan for Future Financial Challenges
From sudden job losses to unexpected medical expenses, life can throw curveballs. This conversation should be about more than just emergency funds or insurance, though that’s essential. It should involve anticipating economic shifts, potential job changes, or unforeseen expenses due to issues like illnesses.
Start by identifying potential risks and creating contingency plans. Allocate a portion of savings for unexpected setbacks and consider diversifying investments. You can seek advice from financial planners to prepare for unforeseen scenarios.
Navigate Money Conversations For Couples And Other Crucial Marriage Issues With Premarital Counseling
Embarking on the journey of marriage isn’t just about exchanging rings and vows. It’s about intertwining dreams, goals, and, sometimes, bank accounts. These crucial money conversations you should have before marriage are the blueprint for a harmonious financial future together, so don’t leave them to chance.
Financial issues you may find on your partner might be hard to deal with especially when you plan on marrying them. To help navigate these hard conversations, consider expert guidance through premarital counseling. At The Relationship Place, our licensed therapists provide the sanctuary you need to dive deep into not just monetary matters but also other issues couples often sidestep.
Why wait for problems to loom large in your marriage when you can nip them in the bud? Reach out to us today and give your union the strong start it deserves.