When you get engaged to your partner it’s all fun and games! There’s so much excitement about enjoying the moment with one another, telling friends and family, taking cute pictures, and setting a date! Whether you’re subtly eloping or throwing a big shindig, there’s so much planning to be done! But what about financial planning?
Getting your finances in line — and deciding where you want them to go in the future — is incredibly important… but not always straightforward. That’s exactly why you and your partner need to sit down and have a chat — most likely multiple — and iron out what you want your married finances to look like.
Don’t worry though, discussing money doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. It can be fun to see what goals and bucket list items that you guys aspire to together, and it’s super reassuring when you realize that you’re on the same page. And even if you’re not, having these talks before you get married will ensure that you can in fact get on the same page before beginning this new chapter.
Here are 5 financial topics that you should discuss with your partner before getting married:
Who will handle the budgeting? Is one person better at budgeting? (Keep in mind, that’s usually the case.) Not everyone is great at running numbers and setting metrics for a weekly, monthly, and yearly budget, and that’s okay. As long as someone can successfully take the reigns, that’s what matters. If both of you are rusty, there are plenty of crash courses online.
When it comes to budgeting, it’s not just about what bills need to be paid and when. Budgeting also accounts for things such as deciding how much to save every month, how much can be used for groceries, and how much can be used for eating out, ordering in, shopping, and entertainment.
Joint accounts… or individual… or both?
This is a big question for couples when they get married, and everyone’s answers are truly different. Do you and your partner prefer to have individual accounts, allocating who pays what and providing autonomy and privacy to one another? (Note: even if you do have individual accounts, transparency should be a priority — especially when things pop up.) So when we say ‘privacy’ we don’t mean hiding egregious expenses from your partner; we mean things like the ability to surprise your partner with a nice gift — without them knowing.
On the other hand, some couples prepare to solely use joint accounts. This is often the case for couples where one partner stays at home or has a big income disparity from the other. This is also the case for couples who truly believe that transparency comes above all else and strictly adhere to the tenant of “what’s mine is yours.”
Many couples choose to use a mix of accounts. They may choose a strategy like receiving work payments via direct deposit, therefore providing them with money they have complete control over, while using a joint account for savings, emergencies, bills, and/or travel!
Investing isn’t on every person’s radar. In fact, many Americans don’t invest at all. (Keep in mind that that’s not always due to disinterest or ignorance; a lot of time it’s because people lack the extra money to do so.)
So while you’re allocating money for savings, make sure you also invest in your future. Use Roth IRAs, retirement accounts, general investment accounts adjusted to your level of risk, and heck, even cryptocurrency if you want. (However, cryptocurrency — as well as the investment market in general — can be volatile. Only invest what you’re willing and able to lose.) Nevertheless, this should be a priority. After paying bills and allocating money towards savings, set a specific amount to deposit each week or month into your investment strategy — while still putting money aside for fun stuff. (See! This is where budgeting comes into play!)
Of course, everyone won’t have an inheritance — especially one of significance. But if you do, discussing this is a must. Sure, you make think that your inheritance is all yours. (And for sure, if that’s the mentality of your marriage that’s fine.) If that’s the case, this is where a prenup is especially helpful. Hiding your inheritance from your partner could lead to major trust issues down the road, due to seeming selfish and uncommunicative.
Want to travel to Bali? Head on a safari to Africa? Travel across America in an RV? Skydive in New Zealand? Whatever may be on you and your partner’s bucket list should be discussed and planned for before getting hitched. (Once again, everything turns back to budgeting!) When saving, investing, and playing with fun money, think about things like this: “How badly do I want to travel to Bali? And how badly do I want to do it before we’re old and gray?” Keeping your eye on the prize — and doing so with enthusiasm — is super important.
While planning for your financial future may seem intimidating and awkward, remember that you’re getting married to this person and that every. single. thing. should be laid on the table. Especially when it comes to a prenup, which doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or rude. Have fun with it, maybe cozy up with a bottle of wine and a spreadsheet, and crunch the numbers together.