Getting engaged can be a very exciting time in your life and, although it is a busy one, there are certain conversations that should happen before you walk down the aisle. Unless you have several relatives that have long, happy marriages and help guide you through the necessary discussions, I would suggest taking pre-marriage counseling or a pre-marriage class. Many of my relatives, including my grandparents that have been married for over 60 years suggested that LD and I discuss money before we get married. However, that is not a conversation that is easy for people to start naturally. So, I have put together a guide to help you discuss your financials with your future spouse.
Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn / Foter / CC BY
1. What are your goals (separate and joint) for your lives?
This is something that can change, but most big life decisions will impact your financial situation. Do you want to go back to school at some point? How many kids do you want? What is your planned career path? Would one of you want to be a stay at home parent? Do you want to eventually own a home? What about your retirement plan? While some ideas might be a little hazy at the moment, the more you can dream the easier the next step is.
2. How do you honestly handle money?
Are you a miser and your future spouse is a spender? Being honest with yourselves and each other about how you handle money is a good step in figuring out how you can handle money as a family. Any future budgets will have to fit with both of your money handling styles.
3. How much debt are you bringing into the marriage?
This is a difficult thing to talk about, but it absolutely has to be done. Debt is a big financial factor. Do you have student loans or car loans? Do you have credit card debt? Where are they at in the payment cycle? Your future spouse will not be happy to learn about this after you are already married and they are tied to large amounts of debt they didn’t even know about. Being honest about everything financial will help you to work as a team.
4. Make a plan for reaching your financial goals using the information you have talked about in steps 1-3.
Although this isn’t a binding plan, it should be realistic. Discuss opening a joint bank account and start saving for something, such as the honeymoon or a car. By working together to start saving, you can learn what works for you as a couple and what doesn’t. You can also use your planning to figure out what the most important things are to you as a couple. Even after you get married, you should probably have some financial discussions every couple of months to track your progress to your goals.
With proper communication, money does not have to be an obstacle in your marriage. Open communication is the first step towards financial fitness as a couple. How did your conversation go? Are there any tricky spots you could use some help with? Are there any additional tips you would add for making the money conversation go smoothly?