For richer or for poorer — it’s one of those standard, almost cliché wedding vows you’ve heard a million times on TV, in movies and at real weddings, but it’s common for a good reason. Money is a huge part of marriage.
It’s not the most romantic thing, but before you commit to spend the rest of your life with someone, there are a lot of money conversations to be had.
1. Reaching Full Disclosure
Honesty and free-flowing communication can serve a marriage well, particularly when it comes to money. This may feel a lot more like managing a business than a relationship, but you should crunch numbers together before saying “I do.”
That entails reviewing your credit reports together regularly, checking your credit scores (you can get two credit scores for free every month on Credit.com) and informing the other of various accounts, assets or debts you bring to the partnership. You don’t necessarily have to give the other person access to the accounts — how you manage finances is something you should decide as a couple — but surprise debts or private checking accounts generally don’t go over well with the spouse, once the secret comes out.
2. Having the Prenup Talk
There are pros and cons to having a prenuptial agreement, but it’s something you should probably bring up, even if it’s just to decide, “We don’t need that.” Some people find it depressing or counterproductive to talk about divorce before a marriage even happens, but there are plenty of valid reasons to go through the exercise. For example, if you have significant asset differences when entering a marriage or one if person has children or other dependents they want to protect in the event of divorce or death.
It could be a long and complicated conversation, but marriage is full of those. Discomfort is no reason to ignore something important.
3. Setting Goals
Ideally, you’ve decided to get married because you have things in common. Even if you’re keeping financial accounts separate, you will have shared expenses, and you’ll need to have a discussion about what each person would like to achieve financially over the next several decades.
Achieving things like buying a home, living in a certain place, starting your own business and raising a family require massive financial commitments, not to mention time commitments, so you want to make sure you’re on the same page early on.
4. Defining Wants & Needs
You don’t have to agree on everything, but it’s a lot easier to compromise when you understand how the other person prioritizes. You may think it’s unnecessary to spend money on a gym membership each month, while the other person sees that as a crucial aspect of their well-being. You may find it important to spend $100 a month updating your wardrobe to maintain your desired professional appearance, while your spouse sees that as an easy way to cut back on expenses.
The possibilities for difference in opinion are endless. Talk about what’s important to you so you can better pick your financial battles and avoid fighting about every transaction that shows up on your bank statements.
5. Determining a Money Management Strategy
You have to stay on top of your finances, not only so you avoid going into debt but also because you need to watch out for damaging things like credit card fraud and identity theft. That requires someone to review financial accounts regularly — daily, ideally — so you need to come up with a strategy.
Common reasons people fall behind on financial obligations are a lack of organization and a belief that someone else (a spouse) was taking care of things. Finance is an area where one person may be better suited to take control, but that doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t have a role. Even if there’s one person managing the books, make sure you’re talking about money regularly, so there are no surprises and everyone is fully informed of what’s going on while working toward those shared goals.
Relationships are unique, so your approach to finances should reflect that. What works for your best friends may not work for you. The important thing is you and your future spouse agree on how to handle this part of your lives.
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
- How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
- What’s a Bad Credit Score?
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life