Marriage and money: A checklist for financial planning with your spouse
March 23, 2022
4 min read
What we'll cover
Why it's important to talk about money
How to share your financial history with each other
How to discuss premarital agreements
Before you tie the knot, you and your spouse-to-be have a lot to discuss (and not just with regards to wedding and honeymoon planning). Be sure to pencil in some time to talk about your financial future. Establishing a firm financial foundation can set the stage for a successful start to your new life together as newlyweds.
Use this checklist to ensure you hit every essential money matter.
Before you get hitched, you should talk about what’s mine, yours and ours. You and your soon-to-be spouse should make sure each other knows about each of your assets, such as property, investments, savings, businesses, family trusts and vehicles. Having an accurate picture of your capital can help you decide how you will leverage it together as a couple. For example, you may want to sell your condo to upgrade to a bigger home where you’ll start a family. Or perhaps you’ll want to switch up your investment strategy to save for an active retirement together.
Although you should discuss your assets, that doesn’t mean you have to share them. You may decide to manage your finances separately — a strategy that works for many couples.
Most Americans carry some type of debt, whether it’s in the form of credit card debt, student loans or personal loans. If this applies to you or your spouse, share the information (disclosing as much as possible, including any past bankruptcies) and create an action plan for paying it down. Becoming debt-free is a crucial step in working toward financial freedom and building wealth.
You can also create a budget together to promote more financial harmony as you pay down debt or strive for other financial goals.
Share credit scores
A strong credit score can open a lot of doors — from helping you qualify for a mortgage to refinancing student loans or buying a car. Good credit is an essential building block of financial health. Swap scores with your beloved, and from there, you can formulate a plan to improve your scores (if needed) and get ahead of any surprises when the time comes to apply for a loan together (such as a mortgage or a business loan).
Take a history lesson
Most relationship advice would discourage talking too much about your previous romances. (Who wants to share steamy details about their ex?) But when you get married, you should pledge to love your spouse in sickness and in health — and to always be transparent about finances. If you have merged your money with a partner in the past, share that information with your spouse-to-be. Let them know about any continued obligations, such as child support, alimony payments or credit card debt racked up by an ex.
Try to think about your past experiences as learning opportunities. Talk about what did and did not work, money-wise, in your past relationships and how you hope to improve your financial management going forward.
The idea of talking about who gets what in the event of divorce before you even walk down the aisle may sound less than romantic, to say the least. Although it may feel uncomfortable, talking about a prenup before you get married could be a wise choice that can save you a lot of money and heartache down the line (if the unfortunate does happen).
A prenuptial agreement is a written contract between a couple before they marry, in which they agree on how assets and cash will be divided if the marriage ends (by death or divorce). The agreement can also arrange for financial support in the form of ongoing payments from one spouse to the other.
Although mostly anyone can enter into a prenup, they’re more common when one spouse has significantly more assets or debts than the other. Discussing a prenup can give you the motivation to talk about difficult subjects with your spouse-to-be and an opportunity to agree on a number of important financial decisions ahead of time. But hopefully, you’ll never have to use it. Keep in mind, this checklist is just for informational purposes and shouldn't be taken as legal advice. Working with a legal professional is the best way to find out what options best suit your relationship and financial circumstances.
Lay it all on the line for financial happily ever after
A successful marriage can thrive with open and honest communication, especially as it pertains to finances. Before you say “I do,” take the time to tackle all the tough topics related to money and how you’ll manage it as a married couple, so you can enjoy your wedded bliss. Getting on the same page will help you navigate life’s twists and turns and accomplish your financial goals.