4 Financial Conversations to Have Before You Say I Do
by Christy Bieber | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Aug. 19, 2019
Before you get married, you need to make sure you're on the same page with your partner. Have these financial conversations first!
Getting married combines your financial lives in important new ways -- even if you've previously been living together before marriage. As a married couple, you may file a joint tax return and have joint goals you want to accomplish together, such as buying a house or paying for the cost of a kid. The financial decisions you each make will also impact your spouse and affect the shared life you're trying to build together.
Because marriage is a financial partnership, and money is a leading cause of relationship issues, it's important to have a few talks about finances before you get married. In fact, here are four financial conversations you and your partner should definitely have before your wedding day.
1. Will you combine your accounts, and how will you share expenses?
Many (but not all) married couples combine financial accounts. There are benefits to joint accounts, including the fact that it's easier to work toward shared goals when all your money is in the same place. And if you have shared accounts, you're also more accountable to your partner about financial decisions.
But there are also downsides, including a lack of financial freedom, and the potential for big money-related fights if either partner feels they're losing control over what they do with their money.
You'll need to decide together if you and your future spouse will combine accounts or not, because this is a decision that you both need to be comfortable with. And, if you're not going to fully merge your finances, have a conversation about how expenses will be split. Sharing costs 50-50 may not be fair if one of you has a higher income, so make sure you both agree to a plan.
2. What will your budget look like?
Budgeting is important when figuring out where you want your money to go -- and getting on the same page about your budget will head off many later money-related fights before they can begin.
When you have this conversation, you may find that your partner isn't willing to live on a budget at all. This could be a major red flag if you like to know where your money is going. Or, you may discover that your partner wants to budget a huge amount for travel or early retirement, whereas you'd prefer to spend less or work longer in order to have more money to splurge today.
Talking about these issues before marriage ensures that you're able to communicate, compromise, and find a way to manage money that works for both of you.
3. What are your financial and career goals?
It's important to have similar long-term goals if you're tying the knot, because presumably you'll be spending your lives together. If you're not on the same page, there could be a great deal of conflict in your marriage.
Your partner's career goals can also make a huge impact on your household income, so it's helpful to know those up front, too. You don't want to be surprised a year into your marriage when you find out that your high-earning spouse only wants to make the big bucks until loans are repaid, and is then planning to take a huge pay cut to join a nonprofit. Or, if one of you plans to further your education, you may need to have a conversation about what that would mean for your family budget, or whether your partner expects you to provide financial support during that time.
By outlining your goals and making sure you have shared plans, you can chart a course for post-married life that you know you'll both be happy with.
4. How will you handle costs associated with kids?
Having kids is very expensive and can totally change your financial situation. One partner may decide to give up work, for example. If so, will the other partner be OK with becoming the sole breadwinner? Or, if you're currently splitting expenses from separate accounts, would you be able to continue to do that once one your partner becomes more responsible for child care?
If there's even a chance that you may have kids, talking about these issues can save you a lot of heartache down the road.
It's important to talk about money before marriage
Having these four conversations is essential to making sure you're ready to make financial decisions as a married couple. By talking about money before marriage, you can reduce the chances of financially related fights later. And you can start your relationship off on the right foot when it comes to handling your joint financial lives.
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