Money and Marriage

The Conversations You Need to Have About Money Before the Wedding

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Why do so many couples have trouble talking about money? In a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 68 percent of the people responding held negative views toward having a discussion about money with a fiancé. Five percent of them even felt that it might lead to cancelling the wedding.

Yet, money issues are consistently cited as the number one contributor to tension in relationships. Money issues are also reportedly responsible for 22 percent of all divorces, making them the third leading cause of divorce in the U.S.
We need to get past the taboo of talking about money. Married life can be complicated enough without adding to the pressure by ignoring the effect of money on the relationship.

In reading about communication and, in particular, communication about money, one of the points I found most interesting was that many money arguments aren’t really about the money itself. A lot of them are more about a clash of money personalities.

It may be that one spouse accuses the other spouse of spending too much money even though they can afford it. However, the real reason the spouse is upset could be something much deeper, such as a fear of someday not being able to pay the bills because he or she has been in that situation or saw it happen to his or her parents when growing up. If you haven’t talked about your attitudes toward money or your fears around money, it’s easy to misunderstand a partner’s money mindset.

If you’re not comfortable starting a conversation about money, then talk about your dreams and goals for the future. What are your aspirations for your career? Do you want to have children and when? Where do you want to live? Since each of these aspects of your life together have financial ramifications, they can lead to a more relaxed and natural discussion about money.

Of course, there is also the consideration of how to blend your finances. Whether one of you is frugal and the other a spendthrift or both of you are in agreement about spending and saving, you need to decide how to handle your money together. You should discuss and create a plan that works for you as a team, such as setting goals, putting a cap on purchases, establishing a process for discussing purchases over a certain limit and deciding on combined or separate accounts. You may also want to consult a financial planner to get help with developing your plan

Debt can be the proverbial “elephant in the room” when it comes to finances. Student loans, car loans, credit cards and mortgages are some of the financial baggage that people carry to the altar with them. Or one partner can be debt free and another struggling with issues. Discussing debt is not an easy conversation to have. But debt can undermine a number of financial situations. Here are some red flags to watch out for that should be addressed to help avoid any future dramas over money:

  • Your potential partner doesn’t want to talk about or share information about finances.
  • A potential partner is constantly shopping or picking up the tab for others.
  • Your potential partner is living beyond his or her means or appears to be under financial stress.

A money mindset. Dreams and goals. Blending of finances. Being honest about debt.
These are the types of money situations that need to be discussed when coming together as a couple and preferably before the actual wedding date.

In the short term, these discussions can help you avoid a potential “time bomb” while you’re building and establishing your new marital relationship. In the long term, these discussions will create a set of family values and a legacy for any children you have by showing them a healthy approach to family finances.

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