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Honey, Let’s Talk About Money

By Janine Scott, PhD, CFP® 

So you’re getting married and you and your future spouse have not discussed money. There’s no easy way to start this conversation—but it’s very important, as research cites financial conflicts as one of the major disruptors of marriage. With potentially different money personalities—how you view money based on your values, parental, peer, and societal influences—conversations about household finances are bound to happen. It’s up to you whether you have thoughtful planned discussions, or spontaneous heated arguments.

If you’re in a serious relationship, the time to talk about money is before getting engaged or married. It’s also smart to go through premarital counseling, as money is one of the topics that will surely be highlighted. However, 6-8 weeks before you say ‘I do,’ isn’t enough time to discuss something as revealing and potentially contentious as money. Before you can understand someone’s money personality, you have to understand what influenced their relationship to money. After those discussions you can pinpoint commonalities and differences in your views about money, identify sensitivities and habits, and come up with a plan of action that can better equip each of you for the journey ahead.  

While you will have differences of opinion before and after marriage, there should be unity in developing a plan of action for managing household finances before you tie the knot. This plan doesn’t have to happen in one conversation, but at minimum you should discuss:

  1. Values – There should be shared money values within a financially healthy household. Decide together what’s most important.

  2. Budgeting – Openly discuss individual spending and saving habits and come up with a united spending plan.

  3. Managing debt – Be sure to disclose all debt prior to marriage. Also, discuss attitudes towards consumer debt, including credit cards, personal loans, and mortgages.

  4. Establishing a savings plan – Without a plan, you’re planning to fail. Decide on a realistic percentage of income to save monthly for short and long-term goals. 

  5. Decision-making – Within the relationship, the more capable and responsible person should handle the household finances. This doesn’t mean that only one person makes the money decisions, but day-to-day management will be most efficient if one person takes the lead on paying bills, tracking savings, and managing expenses. But involve the secondary partner throughout the process so that they can successfully manage household finances in the event that primary money manager in the household is ever unable to fulfill this role.  

It’s important to listen to one another and refrain from criticism. Financially healthy households don’t wait for money conversations to occur—they plan for them. Once a month, schedule a financial check-in. Mark it on your calendars and stick to it. Sometimes you’ll have tons to discuss, sometimes very little. Either way, you’re both on the same page with a lesser likelihood of surprises and conflicts.

For more about money personalities and a short quiz visit: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/money-personalities-which-one-describes-you/