6 Money Conversations to Have Before You Get Married
Getting married ties more than your lives together. It also binds your finances — and that can be a challenge if you don’t have some open, honest, and candid conversations about money early on.
It’s true: According to a survey from TD Bank, about one-third of married couples say they argue about money at least once a month.
Want to make sure you and your new spouse aren’t one of them? Make sure you have these six money conversations before tying the knot:
1. What’s your debt situation?
Your spouse’s debts will greatly impact your household budget, as well as how much you can save and invest for the future.
To make sure you’re clear on each other’s obligations, come to the table with a full list of any loans, credit cards, and other debts to your name. This should include your student loans, car loans, any outstanding medical bills you’re paying off, and more. Make sure to have your balances on hand as well. It’s important to have an accurate big picture of how much you’ll owe between the two of you.
2. How much do you make?
It can sometimes be awkward to talk about money, but if you’re getting married, it’s a conversation you need to have — and fast. To start, talk to each other about your salaries or, if you’re hourly or commission-based, discuss your average earnings for the past few years. How much do you typically bring in annually? Per month?
You should also cover any bonuses or other forms of payment you get, as well as your expectations for any raises or pay bumps down the line.
Once you have it all on the table, you should add up your combined incomes to get a good idea of what you’re working with. This can be the beginning of your household budget.
3. Will you share a bank account?
This is a big one — and there’s no wrong or right answer. Talk to your partner about which strategy you’d each prefer, and then walk through the pros and cons together.
Joint accounts obviously make managing your household easier, and they contribute more to the “what’s mine is yours” mentality. Separate accounts, on the other hand, may be a better choice if one of you has poor spending habits or if your incomes are very disparate.
In some cases, you might consider a combined approach. You could have a joint account you each contribute to and pay bills out of, and then separate accounts for your own spending money.
If you’re not sure which is the best route, you might think about talking to a financial advisor. They can help you choose the most suitable approach given your income, budget, and long-term goals.
4. How will we manage household costs?
You will have a lot of shared expenses once you’re married. There will be rent or a mortgage to pay, utility bills, car payments, student loan payments, and more, and you need to be clear on how those costs will get paid.
Will one of you pay all the bills? Will you set most on autopay? Will you split which bills you each pay and share the load? It’s important to have a defined plan on how you’ll pay each major line-item long before you tie the knot, otherwise, you risk things falling through the crack. (It would hurt your credit too!)
5. What will our spending rules be?
You also need to cover how you’ll spend your money once your debts and monthly bills are covered. Are you each free to spend as you wish? Will you get X amount of disposable income each month? Will you get approval for any purchases over $50?
There are many ways to handle spending, and the right choice really depends on your earnings, how much you want to save and invest for the future, and your trust level with one another. Putting together a detailed household budget and help you determine how much extra income you’ll have to work with each month.
6. How will we save for the future?
It may feel like a long day away, but at some point, you and your spouse will retire, and you’ll need enough cash on hand to support you — possibly for decades to come. What steps will you take now to save for that future? How much can you afford to invest in an IRA or in the stock market? Can you take advantage of any employee matching programs?
Map out a plan for how you’ll reach your retirement goals, and work investing, saving, and wealth-building into your budget each month to ensure it gets done. (You might even want to set up auto-transfers into your savings or brokerage accounts just to be sure).
Buying a house with your spouse
If you’re hoping to buy a house once you’re married, it’s time to start planning for that too. Get in touch with an Embrace Home Loans office in your area to talk first steps. If you already own a home, read this primer to marriage.