Getting married this year? Before you tie the knot, make time to have a candid conversation about money with your fiancé. It may not be a romantic subject, but it’s an important one. Your individual ways of managing finances can have a profound impact on the health of your marriage for years to come, so it’s crucial to start things off on the right foot.
Finances can be a sensitive issue and can be easily shrugged off when there are so many other fun things to talk about related to your upcoming nuptials. However, by establishing a healthy way of communicating about financial issues, you will set a good precedent for many other discussions that will arise in your life together. Have that talk with your betrothed; it’s worth it.
I’ve put together a few key tips to help frame the discussion and lead you both toward a successful outcome (and hopefully a happy, financially healthy marriage).
Put It on Your Calendar
Timing is everything when it comes to talking about money. Trying to steer the conversation to finance when you’re dining by candlelight or watching the game together is a strategy likely to backfire. Instead, be direct. Ask your partner if you can schedule a time to talk about how you’ll handle your finances once you get married.
Someone who is comfortable with full disclosure will be glad you brought it up. However, it’s possible he may balk, throw up obstacles, or become evasive. If so, suggest sitting down with a financial planner before you tie the knot. Many people carry emotional baggage related to money, and sometimes a neutral third party can help. Remind him that you’ll both be better off if you can develop a healthy way of discussing these matters now.
Keep It Upbeat, but Honest
When you sit down to talk, ask your future hubby how he envisions you managing your money together, and what his goals are for the future. Then share your own ideas. No couple will be perfectly in sync on every subject, but understanding what matters to each of you will make it easier to create a household budget you both find livable.
Open the door to full transparency by asking your fiancé if he’d like to ask you anything about your finances. If you have debts to pay off, whether they are student loans or credit cards, this is the time to be clear about how much you owe and your plan to pay it off. If he’s the one with debts, ask about his plan to pay them down. Keep the conversation focused on how you can build healthy finances together and resist the temptation to judge one another.
Of course, if one of you has done something with serious potential consequences for your marriage — like failing to pay taxes or racking up a big online gambling debt — you both need to do some thinking. In cases like this, postponing your wedding date until things are straightened out could be the smartest move.
Support Each Other
These days it’s exceedingly common for one or both parties in a relationship to carry a financial burden like credit card and/or student loan debt. In fact, recent data has led to speculation that many people are delaying getting engaged because of their loans.
Debt is stressful for any couple, but dealing with it together has its advantages. Be each other’s cheerleaders and celebrate big wins together, and you may find that the debt payoff journey makes your marriage even stronger over the long term.
Once all your cards are on the table, it’s time to get proactive about achieving financial success. Burdened by high-interest-rate credit card debt? Accelerate your payments and/or look into refinancing with a low interest rate personal loan. Exorbitant student loan balance? Refinancing student loans is a relatively new option that could cut your payments and save you money on interest. Lacking an emergency cushion or haven’t started saving for retirement? Take a second look at your budget to make sure you’re maximizing your ability to sock the dollars away.
Some couples encounter problems with what is known as financial infidelity — that is, hiding bank accounts, credit cards, or spending from a spouse. CreditCards.com found in a survey that around one-fifth of Americans in a relationship admitted to spending $500 or more without telling their partner. Secret splurges like this can leave you short of the money you really need to build a life together.
Using online personal finance sites to create and maintain a budget can ensure you talk openly about your finances. It’ll force you to sit down regularly to make decisions together like how much of your income goes to groceries vs. restaurants, or gas vs. shoes. If you want a shoe budget, bring it up openly.
The better you work together as a team, the more you’ll be able to afford the fun stuff, like great vacations or a spacious apartment. And someday, all of that hard work on your finances will add up to a life together that you both love.
This article is intended to provide useful information about personal finance, but it is not intended to provide legal, investment, or tax advice.
Christina Kramlich is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.