Let’s face it, talking about money with your soon-to-be husband or wife isn’t particularly romantic—but it is important.
And you may face a bigger challenge than your parents did when it comes to mixing love and money, according to Tiaudra Shaw, a SunTrust premier banker based in Atlanta. “Many of our parents got married when they were young and didn’t have anything,” she says. “Nowadays people come into a marriage with their own money and their own habits when it comes to handling it.”
Luckily, newlyweds can head off strife by talking about their finances—and their financial values—before tying the knot. Here are four topics to cover in that conversation:
1. Each partner’s role
A good marriage is based on shared responsibilities and duties, such as spelling out which spouse is responsible for paying the bills and tracking the household budget. Discuss everything from what you spend your money on to how you’ll handle unexpected expenses. Just remember to keep an open mind. And realize that a financial advisor can provide a helpful outside perspective as you work through this process.
Extensive debt isn’t necessarily a reason to put off the wedding, but a habit of hiding debt might be. Before you set the date, have a frank discussion about both partner’s finances. Once you’re married, the role of debt changes dramatically. Both of you may be responsible for debts either of you incur from that point on. That’s why it’s so important to discuss beforehand what kind of debt you’d be comfortable holding as a couple, and how you might manage that debt together.
3. Spending styles
Money means something different to each person. A marriage between a spender and a saver might create the perfect balance. Figure out your own habits first, such as when you splurge and when you pinch your pennies. Then share that information with your partner. Note any differences that could cause friction—such as how you use credit cards—and develop strategies for dealing with them. Know thyself and thy trouble spots, suggests Shaw. “Then be honest and flexible.”
4. Financing your future
Shaw recommends regular “what-if” chats about your future together. Do you plan to buy a home? Are you considering children? Planning can help you figure out how to get closer to these goals. And keeping an eye on the future doesn’t just help with long-range financial planning; it’s also a great way to bond as a couple. “Don’t be afraid to keep reviewing your plans,” Shaw says. “As life changes, your goals will change, too.