May through October are the most popular months to get married. When I think of all the couples I have worked with through the years as a Spokane financial advisor, it makes me cringe that so many couples don't understand the importance of having a conversation about their finances. It amazes me that money is such a taboo subject, when it is also one of the most important aspects of all of our lives. Similar to going through premarital counseling or even signing a prenuptial agreement, making the time to have those conversations about difficult subjects, such as finances, will only add value to your partnership, versus subtracting from marital bliss over time.
Growing up, I was lucky to live in a home where money was talked about freely and openly. Having a spending and financial strategy hashed out before the "I do's" can often be the difference between becoming a marital master or a divorce disaster.
If opposites attract, this certainly rings true when it comes to financial strategies. In my line of work, I have found that usually people are either born savers or born spenders. Neither is better than the other, but it is surprising how many people tie the knot only to find out they are not matched financially. If marriage is like rowing a boat together, you have to make sure you are each going the same direction with your oars, or you aren't getting anywhere. Simply opening it up to conversation can help create guidelines for couples to avoid being surprised later.
The difference between a dream and goals is a plan. So how do you create a sound financial foundation, before the trust issues, money squabbles, and resentment start creeping in? It's simple but still bears to be said—it is all about:
- Honesty with each other
I lived in a home where money was talked about freely and openly. Unfortunately, as I grew into my career, I learned that I was the minority and not the majority in that aspect, as is the case for so many where money is associated with shame. No matter what age or tax bracket you are in, it isn't difficult to find couples that consciously choose to not talk about money, or feel ambivalent towards it, or hope that their money issues will mysteriously work themselves out.
Read on for some ideas for financial conversation starters:
1. The "This is What My Money Looks Like" Conversation
If you go into a forest without a map, you can't get mad at yourself for getting lost. The same is true for your financial future with your partner. To make it easy, keep the conversation light, casual, and honest. Neither of you have to be perfect when it comes to money (or lack thereof), but you do need to be on the same page with each other in order to tackle future money problems together.
2. What's an Amount That I Should Touch Base with You First before I Spend?
Communication is the key here. Make an effort to define what the "check-in line" is: the meaningful amount (like $250, for example), agreed upon by the two of you, that each one of you should check in with each other FIRST before spending.
3. What are Some of Your Money Goals?
This is a great time to see if your financial habits and goals are compatible with each other. Just like marriage, sharing money with a partner is all about communication and compromise. Make a list of some short and long-term goals that you would like to tackle together—do you see yourself wanting to buy a home in the next year? If so, taking that dream vacation to the Bahamas might not be the best way to spend your hard-earned cash.
4. Are We Going to Combine Our Finances?
There is no right or wrong way to handle your money. Some couples prefer to open a joint bank account as soon as they know they are in it for the long haul. Other couples want to keep their cash separate for their whole lives. It doesn't matter which you choose, as long as you are candid about it, and are both comfortable in that decision.
Honest conversations about money before marriage will pay countless happiness dividends in the future. I wish I could stress enough to every couple I meet the importance of prioritizing and coming up with a spending strategy with your partner. The conversation doesn't have to be long, painful or boring, but simply starting one will make an enormous difference in your financial and marital success. By focusing on your common goals together, you will feel like you have a teammate and true ally in your corner in all aspects of your life. Money should help you live your best lives together, not hinder it.
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Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.