Money fights are the leading cause of divorce in marriage. I believe one way we can solve this problem is by having better money conversations during the dating years. Below are 7 conversations about money every couple should have before their wedding day.
Discuss Your Childhood Money Experiences.
Whether we want to admit it or not, our childhoods have a big impact on our adult behavior. Knowing these influences can give you insight into why your partner behaves a certain way. Did you see one parent handle everything and now you have that expectation coming into your relationship? Was your partner always told yes and now they don’t know how to say no to themselves? Or maybe it was the opposite. For example, I hardly ever got name-brand things when I was a kid so as an adult I spent a lot of money on name-brand stuff to make up for that. This type of knowledge will help you understand your partner better and be more patient as you work to help them replace those toxic money behaviors with good ones. Not only that, but knowing each other’s backgrounds can help you decide together which behaviors you witnessed are good and important to keep and which ones you don’t want to repeat in your own household.
Discuss Your Most Important Money Goals.
It’s hard to cultivate financial unity in marriage when you have competing goals. Maybe you want to save for a house first, but he has always dreamed of buying a boat once he gets a good-paying job. Or maybe you want to go back to school, but her top goal is a newer car. Laying out your top 3-5 financial priorities and discussing them together before you’re married will help YOU BOTH come into agreement on what’s most important in your relationship and start prioritize the actions you need to take to reach those goals. This is also important because you want to ensure your partner actually has some financial goals before you’re married. If they don’t, this is a great way to get them thinking about what their goals are. My recommendation is that you both send an email with a list of 3-5 of your top financial goals. Take a few days to review each other’s goals and compare them with your own. From there you should come back together and have a discussion where you discuss what your top money priorities should be as a couple.
Discuss How Much You Both Earn
Good planning is hard when you don’t have the details. Asking someone you’re dating about their income can be terrifying, but walking into marriage with a financial blindfold on is even worse. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into from a salary perspective especially if you have goals and dreams that are super important to you. You don’t want there to be any financial resentment as the relationship progresses. An important component of this conversation is their career trajectory. Maybe they’re earning a less than ideal salary today, but have strong potential to make more later. I’ve shared how shortly after Taylor and I started dating I got my first sales job and made less than $30k. I knew that I had the drive and desire to earn more and I knew that as I got better at sales I would earn more. Fast forward to last year I made over 100k still working in sales. Meanwhile, Taylors salary as a teacher has remained relatively consistent and I knew that would be the case coming into our marriage. This knowledge allows both of you to set better short-term and long-term goals together before and during your marriage.
Discuss Your Spending and Saving Habits
In addition to income, it’s important to know how much of that income your partner spends and how much they save. Are they in love with high-dollar fashion and shop every chance they get? Or would they rather grab a few nice, quality items at a much lower price and save more money? This is important because your partner’s spending habits can have a huge impact on your ability to reach your goals. With that said, you need to understand how well they save and how much they spend before you get married. Having this conversation will also reveal if your partner can create and follow a monthly spending plan or if they’re even willing to. Talking through this step can paint a clearer picture of both of your financial strengths and weaknesses while also pointing out the areas where you’re aligned and where you’ll need to sacrifice a little once you’re married. So share your spending plan and talk about the process you both have for making spending decisions and how those habits can affect your money as a couple.
Discuss Your Net Worth
Your net worth is the greatest way to measure the quality of your financial decisions. If you’re consistently making good financial choices, your net worth will increase. If you’re consistently making poor financial choices, your net worth will decrease. Before you get married, talk through the assets both of you own like checking and savings accounts, investment accounts, and any real estate holdings. Then from there lay out all of the debt you have from car loans to student loans, to credit cards, to that one time you borrowed 10k from your great aunt. It’s also a great idea for you both to pull your credit reports before you marry and discuss your credit scores and history as credit can have a huge impact on certain goals like buying a house. Your net worth is the greatest way to measure the quality of your financial decisions. Click To Tweet
Discuss Whether You Will Combine Finances
Many people believe that finances should be combined after marriage, however, some people believe the best way to manage finances is to keep things separate. It’s important to know where your partner stands on this conversation before marriage. When we had this talk, we decided that it was important to us to combine finances, however, we also decided that we both would get a set amount of spending money each month to do whatever we please no questions asked. This has eliminated a lot of the little petty money fights that often happen in marriage over one of your spending habits. If you decide to keep things separate, then you’ll need to decide how you’ll share and divide the financial responsibilities of your household once you’re married. As you have this conversation, it may also be a good time to get your partner’s views on a prenuptial agreement. Whatever you decide, it’s important that you both are in full agreement and that you have a clear understanding of just how much transparency and communication you expect from one another. The last thing you want to deal with is financial infidelity which is where one spouse intentionally lies to or misleads the other about certain financial habits or ideals. This can lead to some HUGE problems in your marriage that neither of you want to deal with.
Discuss All Financial Obligations
Maybe one of you has kids from a previous relationship. Or maybe you pay alimony to a former spouse or take care of an elderly family member. When we got married, Taylor didn’t know I had family members that I would send money to on a pretty regular basis. It wasn’t a huge problem, but it was something that she didn’t fully understand and it led to some disagreements that could have been avoided by just having the conversation upfront. If you’re in the position I was in, it’s important to realize that your spouse is now your top financial priority. This doesn’t mean you should just cut everyone else off on your wedding day, but it does mean you should listen to your spouse and respect their opinion on the matter. So now that you know what conversations you need to have here’s what you should know about how to bring up these topics:
- Let your partner know you want to have these talks and schedule them. The worst thing you can do is ambush someone about their money. Money is a deeply personal and emotional topic so explain that it’s important for you both to know where the other is and that you’d like to make time to discuss. Keep in mind you don’t have to have all of these conversations at one time either. Break them up so its not overwhelming.
- Don’t judge or get defensive. As I said, money is deeply personal and emotional and our habits could be the result of cultural and family traditions. Resist the urge to judge your partner during the conversations and also try not to get defensive when your partner asks you questions or makes suggestions. Create a space where you both can be as open and honest as necessary in a respectful way.
- Don’t be afraid to hire a pro. Figuring this out on your own can be tough or even intimidating. Know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing in a 3rd set of eyes to take a look or even just facilitate the conversation. It doesn’t mean that you failed, it means that your desire to get money right in your relationship is greater than your ego.
What conversations do you believe couples should have before they say “I Do”? Tap here and share your best tips.