When you’re getting ready to head down the aisle, finances can be the furthest thing from your mind. Before you say “I do,” however, it’s imperative to get on the same page about how you and your spouse will approach spending, investments, debt, and budgeting as a wedded couple.
And perhaps for sound reason: in an Ally survey of 1,400 Americans 18 and older, 36 percent who are married or in a serious relationship cite money as the number one cause of stress in their relationships. So, it’s no surprise that important financial conversations often get set aside leading up to the big day.
Most experts will agree it’s best not to leave these conversations to the last minute when one or both of you are already feeling stressed—let’s just say the night before the wedding might not be optimal.
So before a wedding ring is slipped on your finger, be sure to talk money with your significant other. Here’s how.
Find the right time, right place.
Finances are not the kind of thing you want to bring up on the first date. As soon as the relationship turns serious and you begin discussing long-term plans together, that’s a good sign it’s time to have the talk. If you find yourself way past that point, just remember it’s never too late to bring up the subject. The key is to just start communicating.
When you decide it’s time to bring up the subject of finances, experts recommend these five keys:
- Stay calm and approach your partner at a low-stress time.
- Be honest. (If you aren’t, it will only cause problems down the road.)
- Get detailed. (This will help you both figure out solutions that work.)
- Talk about family—be candid about how parents, siblings, and others play into your financial picture.
- Talk regularly. Establish a comfort level of talking about finances in both good times and bad.
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 smart place to start is to sit down together and figure out what you want to do with your money (build a safety net, add to savings, start investing) and how you’re going to do it. Understanding the backbone of your financial situation—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.
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. Can’t decide? Some couples choose to have both.
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 the relationship since it can impact things you may want to do together, like purchase a home or a car. So, now’s the time to lay it all on the table. Talk about how you’re going to navigate yourselves out of debt together.
What to say: How are our credit scores?
A credit score is one of the most important factors in getting a mortgage, and you should take a good look at your scores before you are pronounced a wedded couple. Establish some tactics to improve or maintain them so getting a home loan can be crossed off your list of worries.
What to say: Should we consider a prenup?
Yowza! The term prenup, for 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. Statistically speaking, divorces are common (about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States get divorced, according to the American Psychological Association), so tackling this issue early on is a good idea. If you don’t want to spoil the pre-wedding excitement with a prenup, postnuptial agreements are also an option.
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 soon-to-be spouse establish what your retirement goals are, the better chance you have of attaining them. Start this new chapter by setting an ideal retirement age and savings amount and lay out a road map of how you’ll get there.
You’re pledging to be by each others’ sides for better or for worse, and in sickness and in health. Having these money talks before you make it official can help you achieve the “for richer” part of your vows as well.