“I do”—two short words, one big decision.
You’ve been with this person for a while. You love them, you trust them, and you want to spend the rest of your life with them. There’s just one thing left to do: figure out how to talk about finances before marriage.
Getting married is a huge commitment—financially, emotionally, and legally. You’re joining your lives together in every way, so it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page all around—and that includes your money.
Yes, talking about money can be uncomfortable. It’s not always easy to be open and honest about your finances, especially if you’re used to keeping them private. Between debt, student loans, credit card debt, savings, and investments, there’s a lot to discuss.
But trust us, it’s better to deal with these things now than to let them constitute problems down the road. By learning how to talk about finances before marriage, you’re setting yourself (and your spouse) up for success—both financially and emotionally.
Should I talk about finances before getting married?
There’s no magic number for how many months or years you should wait before having the money talk—it differs for everyone. For some couples, that might be a few months in, while for others, it might be closer to the engagement.
The key is to approach the topic respectfully and sensitively. Talk about your concerns and why you think it’s important to discuss your finances now. No one likes to be blindsided, so be sure to discuss the topic before any big decisions are made.
Remember, you’re in this together. Don’t try to make assumptions or manipulate the conversation. The goal is to come up with a plan that works for both of you—a plan that will help reduce stress, build trust, and pave the way for a bright financial future together.
How to talk about finances before marriage
When talking about money, there are no hard and fast rules. Every couple is different, so it’s important to tailor the conversation to suit your relationship.
Some couples might feel comfortable discussing money from the get-go, while others might need some time to warm up to the idea. Regardless of where you stand, here’s a guide to help you ensure the conversation goes smoothly.
1. Set the tone
The tone of the conversation is just as important as the actual discussion. Avoid coming across as judgmental, condescending, or critical. It’s a conversation, not an interrogation, so try to keep an open mind and be respectful of your partner’s point of view.
2. Discuss each other’s viewpoints on money
Before diving into the numbers, it’s vital to understand each other’s relationships with money. Talk about how you were raised to think about and handle money. What are your spending habits like? What are your financial goals? How do you feel about debt?
Answering these questions will help give you a better idea of where your partner is coming from and what their priorities are. Some couples might find that they have very different attitudes towards money, while others might discover that they share the same values.
Either way, you’ll be one step closer to finding common ground and making informed decisions about your future.
3. Discuss your financial background
Now it’s time to talk specifics. Share your financial history with each other, warts and all. Be open and honest about your debts, savings, investments, income, and expenses. If you have any financial skeletons in the closet, now would be a great time to bring them out.
Different financial backgrounds can create different challenges, but the goal is to find common ground and work together towards a solution.
Let’s say one partner grew up in a well-off family, but the other came from a more modest background. Chances are that the first partner might be more comfortable with debt, while the second may be more risk-averse.
They’re also likely to have different expectations about how money should be saved, spent and what kind of lifestyle they can afford. By being open about these differences, you can find a middle ground and make compromises that work for both of you.
4. Discuss your life and financial goals
Here, you start to get into the nitty-gritty of your financial future together. Do you want to buy a house? Start a family? Save for retirement? Travel the world? All of the above?
You need to be on the same page about your short-term and long-term goals. If you’re not, it’s likely that one person will end up sacrificing their dreams for the sake of the other—and that’s not fair.
What’s more, you’ll need to devise a plan to make those dreams a reality. It might involve creating a spending plan, making sacrifices, or taking on additional debt. But as long as you’re both on board, staying motivated and sticking to your goals will be much easier.
5. Discuss your financial red flags
Every relationship has its own set of deal-breakers—and money is no different.
Different couples have varying tolerances for financial risk. One party might be comfortable with a little debt, while the other panics at the thought of taking on any more. One might be happy to invest in volatile stocks, while the other prefers the stability of a savings account.
You need to know what your financial red flags are before getting married. That way, you can avoid potential arguments down the line and ensure that you’re both on the same page.
You may find some typical financial red flags arise:
- Different levels of financial risk tolerance
- Different approaches to saving and spending
- Different levels of debt
- Different financial goals
- Different levels of income
- Different spending habits
If you can identify and discuss your financial red flags before getting married, you’ll be in a much better position to work around them.
6. Do either of you have any other financial obligations?
Now is also the time to discuss any other financial obligations that you might have. They could be student loans, credit card debt, alimony payments, or child support. Family loans and gifts can also fall into this category.
Start by making a list of all the financial obligations each of you have. Then, discuss how those obligations will be managed after you’re married. Will one person be responsible for making the payments or will you split them down the middle? You should also consider how those obligations might impact your other financial goals.
Let’s say you want to buy a house, but one partner has significant student debt. You’ll need to factor that debt into your spending plan and ensure you can still afford the mortgage payments. The same goes for credit card debt, alimony payments, and child support.
7. How will you manage money together?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. It all comes down to what works best for you as a couple. Some couples choose to keep their finances completely separate. Others might have a joint account for shared expenses, like the mortgage or groceries. And some couples choose to combine all their finances into one account.
What’s important is that you come to a decision you’re both comfortable with. If you’re not sure where to start, try doing a trial run for a few months. See how it goes, and make adjustments as needed.
You should also decide how you’ll handle financial decision-making as a couple. Will one person be in charge of the finances or will you make decisions together? Either way, it’s critical to set some ground rules, so there’s no confusion about who is responsible for what.
No matter how you choose to manage your finances, communication is critical. Practice talking openly about money without getting defensive, and you’ll be in a much better position to make sound financial decisions as a team.
8. Do you need a prenup?
This is a big one. And it’s not an easy question to answer. A prenuptial agreement (or prenup) is a legal document that outlines how your assets will be divided in the event of a divorce.
Prenups can be a great way to protect your finances, especially if you have significant assets or debt. But they’re not for everyone. Some couples feel that prenups are a sign of distrust and prefer to not have one. And others might not see the need for a prenup because they don’t have many assets to protect.
Still not sure if you need a prenup? Here are a few things to consider:
- Do you have significant assets, like property, investments, or a business?
- Do either of you have substantial debt?
- Is either of you expecting to inherit money in the future?
- Do either of you have children from a previous relationship?
- Are you planning to keep your finances separate?
Answering yes to any of these questions doesn’t mean you need a prenup. But it’s something to think about. If you’re still not sure, talk to a lawyer or financial advisor. They can help you weigh the pros and cons and decide if a prenup is right for you.
9. Estate planning
What happens to your money when you die? It’s not a fun topic to think about, but, it’s an important conversation to have nonetheless.
Estate planning is the process of making a plan for how your assets will be distributed when you die. You don’t need to have a complex estate plan to get started. But you should at least have a basic understanding of how your assets will be handled.
There are a few things to think about when it comes to estate planning:
Do you have a will? If not, you should create one. A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed when you die.
Do you have life insurance? Life insurance can help your loved ones cover expenses—like funeral costs or outstanding debts—in the event of your death.
Do you have any beneficiary designations? These are documents that assign someone to receive your assets in the event of your death. For example, you might have a beneficiary designation for your retirement accounts or life insurance policy.
Do you have a power of attorney? A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. It can be helpful if you become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourself.
Estate planning can seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Start by creating a basic plan. Then, you can add to it as your life and finances change.
10. How much do you want to spend on the wedding?
Weddings can be expensive. But, how much you spend is entirely up to you.
While some couples prefer to go all out and have a lavish affair, others prefer to keep it simple and intimate. It all comes down to what you’re comfortable with.
Sit down with your partner and talk about how much you’re willing to spend on the wedding. Ensure you’re on the same page and be realistic about what you can afford.
Also, keep in mind that there are ways to save money on your wedding. For example, you could have your wedding on a weekday or during an off-peak season. Or, you could DIY some of the decorations.
Bottom line: don’t let the cost of the wedding dictate how you want to celebrate your big day. Be mindful of your spending plan, and make the right decisions for you.
How to ensure that the conversation runs smoothly
The key to successful money conversations is to keep the lines of communication open, andbeing honest, respectful, and receptive to your partner’s point of view.
Follow these tips to help keep the conversation on track:
1. Maintain a judgment-free zone
Arguments about money are often emotionally charged. So, it’s essential to approach the conversation with an open mind. Avoid making assumptions or passing judgment. Instead, focus on understanding your partner’s perspective.
2. Take turns talking
It can be easy to get caught up in your own point of view. But it’s important to listen to your partner as well. Take turns talking, and make an effort to truly hear what your partner is saying.
3. Avoid interrupting
Resist the urge to jump in and interject. Interrupting communicates that you’re not interested in what your partner has to say. It also makes it more difficult to truly listen and understand their point of view.
4. Don’t rush it
It’s an important conversation. Take your time. There’s no need to rush through it. If you need to, schedule a time to talk so you can have the conversation when you’re both feeling relaxed and have the time to really dig in.
5. Assume you won’t always agree
Money is a sensitive topic. So, it’s normal to disagree on some things. Try to be understanding and compromise when you can. Remember, you’re on the same team.
6. Look for natural ways to talk about money
You don’t always have to sit down and have a formal conversation about money. Instead, look for natural ways to bring it up in conversation. For example, you could talk about how you’re planning to save for a vacation or how you’re working to pay off debt.
7. Schedule regular check-ins
It’s not a one-time conversation. Your financial needs and goals will change over time. So, schedule regular check-ins to discuss how things are going. This way, you can make adjustments to your plan as needed.
8. Seek help if you get stuck
If you’re struggling to have the conversation or you’re not making progress, seek help from a professional. A financial planner or therapist can help you work through the issue and find common ground.
9. Celebrate your successes
Money can be a stressor. So, it’s important to celebrate your successes along the way. When you reach a financial goal, take a moment to celebrate. It could be something as simple as going out to dinner, a huge milestone accomplishment like buying a house. Whatever the case may be, take a moment to relish your achievements.
10. Don’t forget to have fun
Money is important. But, it’s not everything. So, don’t forget to have fun along the way. Life is too short to focus solely on finances. Make time for the things you enjoy, and always remember what’s more important—your relationship.
Marriage is about love, trust—and financial partnership. And although the latter may not seem as glamorous as the former two, it’s just as important. Between wedding costs, combining finances, and planning for the future, there are a lot of money conversations to be had before tying the knot.
So, before you say “I do,” have the money talk. It could very well be the most important conversation you ever have.
Download the Stackin app to understand your money and open yourself up to more financial conversations!