If you’re recently engaged, you probably have a lot on your to-do list. And with a wedding to plan, invites to send, flowers to order, cakes to test and so much more, finances may be the furthest thing from your mind. But if you and your spouse-to-be haven’t had the money talk yet, it’s time to move it to the top of your itinerary.
Before you exchange vows you need to get on the same page about how you and your future spouse will approach spending, investments, debt and budgeting. Married life has its fill of stressors, but money often rises to the top. Having these important discussions now can set you on a path of open conversations about finances from the start.
So before anyone walks down the aisle, be sure to talk money with your significant other. Here’s how.
Find the right time, right place
Finances are an important topic, but they’re not always an easy one. (Not the kind of thing you want to bring up on the first date.) However, once your relationship starts to turn serious and you begin discussing long-term plans together, that’s a good sign it’s time to have the money talk. Of course, if you’re way past that point in your relationship, it’s never too late to discuss finances. The key is to start communicating.
When you’re ready to bring up the subject of finances, start with these five tips:
- Keep it low-key. Stay calm and approach your partner at a low-stress time. Avoid judgment and keep an open mind. This will help set the tone and allow each of you to share openly.
- Put everything on the table. Honesty and transparency now can help avoid problems down the road. Be upfront about your debts, your obligations and how you expect to approach finances as a couple.
- Dive into the details. A complete picture will help you figure out solutions that work for both of you and avoid surprises down the road.
- Be candid. Talk about family and how parents, siblings, and kids play into your financial picture. List out non-negotiables or expectations for the future that could have financial ramifications.
- Talk regularly. Establish a comfort level of talking about finances in both good times and bad. Regularly reviewing your budget together or talking through large purchases can help keep that line of communication open.
Now that you have a good idea where and when to have the conversation, the next and probably the trickiest step of all is getting the discussion started. Try these conversation starters to help set yourself up for financial — and wedded — bliss.
What to say: What are our shared financial goals?
A good place to start is to hone in on the plans you have for your money (build a safety net, add to savings, start investing) and how you plan to achieve these goals. Understanding your financial priorities — in other words, what’s important to you both and what isn’t — can help you and your future spouse ease into other important money talks. It can also help you decide where you might want to approach finances together and where you might be better off with a solo plan.
What to say: Does it make sense for us to share bank accounts?
To combine or not to combine, that is the question. Separate accounts allow you more financial freedom with your own money, while joint accounts give both partners access to funds. But joint accounts can cause issues if you aren’t communicating your spending habits with your partner. There’s no right or wrong way to approach this question, the important thing is that you’re both on the same page. You can explore more about how to approach budgeting and saving as a couple.
What to say: Tell me your debt situation and I’ll tell you mine.
It’s important to have an understanding of the debt that’s coming with your relationship. Money owed by either of you can impact future purchases you may want to make together, like home or a car. So, now’s the time to lay it all on the table and talk about how you’re going to navigate your debt together. Beyond debt, don’t forget to talk through any other financial obligations (like child support) or credit history factors (such as bankruptcy) that could affect loans you might apply for together down the line.
What to say: How are our credit scores?
A credit score is one of the most important factors in your financial picture. They are a big factor in getting approved for loans (like a mortgage), getting competitive rates and are often a consideration for rental applications. So while you’re score itself won’t be affected by your partner’s, any loans or approvals you approach jointly will be. Going into your marriage with full visibility means you can establish tactics to improve or maintain scores from the get-go.
What to say: Should we consider a prenup?
Yowza! The term prenup (short for a prenuptial agreement) can be an uncomfortable one to drop into conversation. But whether to get one is, at the very least, a worthwhile discussion to have. Between money, pets, kids, business ventures and many other aspects these agreements can cover, knowing your opportunities is a great step to take together. And although divorce rates are the lowest they’ve been in decades (per the 2020 U.S. Census), they’re still common. Consulting with a legal professional is the best way to determine whether or not a prenup would be right for you.
What to say: When do you want to retire?
Your golden years may seem like a long way off, but the sooner you and your spouse-to-be establish what your retirement goals are, the better chance you have of achieving them. Your ideal retirement age, how much you plan to save and how much you’ve saved for retirement so far could be very different. Understanding how you want to approach this goal together can help you prepare for the road ahead and work as a team to achieve it.
In good times and bad
As you head towards your big day, beyond preparing to pledge your love, make sure you’re preparing for the life you’ll build together and understand the part your finances will play. Having these money talks before you make it official can help you prepare for richer or poorer and approach the good times (and the bad) as a team.
Looking for a way to jump-start the money talk?