Your fiancé seems like everything you could ask for in a partner, and it’s finally time to tie the knot. You’ve picked out the venue, booked your honeymoon flights, and found the perfect dress or suit. While surely all of these expenses required a discussion about budget, talking personal finances with your partner can be a whole other story. As much as some of us don’t like to talk money, money talks, whether we like it or not. How finances are handled can have a significant impact on marriages, so much so that many studies even suggest finances being the leading cause of divorce in the United States.
So, before the big day arrives, it’s important to discuss with your soon-to-be spouse just how you plan to handle finances during the marriage. After all, you can’t build a strong relationship on a weak foundation, so build a plan for handling finances and navigating potential money-induced hardships to ensure you’re starting things off on the right foot.
To make having this conversation especially easy for you, we’ve drawn up a list of the top 10 financial topics couples should discuss before officially tying the knot.
General Money and Spending Habits
That look they get when they’re hangry. The way they hold their pen to their temple when they’re concentrating especially hard. It’s all of the little things like this that you notice about your partner, possibly in a way that nobody else does – and you love them for that. That being said, you surely have some insight into their spending habits already, too. If you have an issue with how quickly your partner blows through their paycheck, like any other issue, it’s best to be proactive about it, and talk through it with them. Communication in a relationship, is everything. While it may be hard to muster up the confidence to have this talk, trust us, you’re going to be happy that you did. After all, it’s better than bottling it up until it turns into a full-fledged argument the next time they overspend.
Related Read: What to Do When Your Views on Money Differ
As of 2018, the average 25-34 year old is carrying $42,000 of debt – and that’s excluding home mortgages. Whether it’s from college loans, living off of credit cards in college and your early 20s, or medical bills from your dog’s emergency surgery, debt can be an extremely overwhelming thing to think about, much less talk about. However, your spouse is someone that you should be able to confide in and turn to for support. Be honest with your partner about your debt, because debt repayments can heavily impact your monthly budget, and whether or not you can splurge on that vacation in Tulum. Additionally, once you and your partner are official and married, some of that debt could become theirs, as well. The best policy here, like always, is honesty. From there, you and your partner can hatch a plan to pay off the balance in a way that makes the most sense to your situation.
If you have made a promise to spend the rest of your life with someone, then salary is not a topic that should be considered off limits. Income affects everything, from the type of living situation you can afford to the way that you will pay the bills. You may decide to split up monthly expenses between the two of you based on your income, or even use one person’s income for paying the bills and the other person’s for “fun money”, depending on how the numbers break down. Yearly income can also be a big factor when it comes time to talk about having or adopting children, as one parent may have the desire to be a ‘stay-at-home dad/mom.’
To gain a good understanding of your future financial stability, it’s worthwhile to talk to your partner about how much they have socked away. This could include everything from a standard savings account, to a 401K, to investments and stocks. Alternatively, if your partner is living paycheck to paycheck, a discussion about savings may warrant a plan to begin squirreling away money into an emergency fund. Most financial experts suggest having six months’ salary of money in the bank.
Marriage represents the union of many things, and quite frequently, that includes the joining of bank accounts. Most couples tend to go for a combination of separate and joint bank accounts, but once again, this decision is very much based on your individual situation, and what you and your partner are comfortable with. Joint bank accounts tend to be ideal for joint expenses like mortgages, utilities, groceries, and expenses for children. Meanwhile, separate accounts may be kept as a place for each partner to keep their personal spending money.
While your credit score is just a number, it’s one that can severely impact your ability to acquire loans, mortgages, and more. If you or your partner has a low credit score, it’s important to discuss ways to work to improve it. Additionally, if you haven’t already talked about it, being honest about the habits that led you or your partner to that score could be the lead-in for an important conversation about the #1 topic on our list – spending habits.
Once you get married, you may qualify for coverage under your spouse’s health insurance, and vice versa. Are you going to stay under separate plans provided through your employers, or are you going to combine into a family plan? Which of your coverage plans are more beneficial? While you’re on the topic of insurance, though death is not something any of us particularly life to think about, life insurance plans are also something you may want to touch on. If one or neither of you already have life insurance, it may be worth discussing taking out plans on one another. Additionally, you may want to discuss one another’s beneficiaries on the policies, and how much is delegated to go to who, including parents and children. After all, it’s best to be prepared for all possible circumstances, and you’ll rest easier knowing that your loved ones are in good hands.
Now that your spouse will be contributing to expenses, it’s best to lay out a budget, just like you would for yourself. Set monthly budgeting goals for one another, and hold each other accountable for them in a healthy manner. To get things going, calculate your combined monthly cash flow, then determine how bills will be paid, savings will be put away, and more. Coming to this understanding before things get going lessens the chance of financial problems down the road.
We’ve already mentioned discussing insurance policies with your future spouse, but simultaneously, it’s also worth speaking to your company’s HR manager to see how adding a spouse to your plan may affect it. After all, some plans do not allow double coverage. Pension plans, IRAs, and 401Ks may also need to be updated to add your spouse as a beneficiary. Before you put your official requests in to your employer, talk to your partner about your preferred beneficiaries and benefits policies, and how they will impact both of you.
Above all, you’ve foreseen your entire future with your soon-to-be-spouse, so it’s important to also discuss your financial future with them. Now that “I” is becoming “we”, take the time to consider your financial goals as a couple, both long-term and short-term. These could include everything from wanting to go out on an expensive date night once a month, to home buying, to retirement planning, and all financial aspects. Hopefully you share similar ideals in these areas, and can sit down together to map out a plan which can help you reach these shared goals.
All in all, you’ve decided to be in it for the long-term with your future spouse, and finances, as long as you both are living, are always going to be a relevant factor in your daily life. It’s best to share an honest, healthy mindset about finances to prevent potential future hardships. We believe that at the end of the day, it’s love, rather than solely money, that makes the world go ‘round. That doesn’t mean that money doesn’t play a major role, though.
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].