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It is important to reinforce that everyone should have the money talk before the marriage talk. Debts, assets, liabilities, spending style and habits?

More and more of my friends are tying the knot and as an individual with an interest in personal finance, I think it is important to reinforce that everyone should have the money talk before the marriage talk.  Because marriage and joining your life together is a decision involving consent of all parties (well, in most countries anyways) it is important to understand everything about your partner, especially when you start thinking of saying vows such as “I take you as you are”.  How can you take them as who they are when you don’t know the full extent of who they are?  Including their debts, assets, liabilities, spending style and habits?

As mentioned in a previous post, it is important to talk about money since money is one of the number one reasons why couples divorce.  It makes sense since money is a symbol of our values and wants if you want to go for financial freedom and avoid a divorce down the line.  We spend money on the things that matter to us (even if it’s the Starbucks latte habit that you have but he doesn’t share).

The Key to a Long Lasting Marriage

I was watching the news the other day and a feel-good story popped up (you know, as opposed to the usually depressing stories of people killing others or natural disasters happening) about a couple in Ontario who just celebrated their platinum anniversary, 70 years together! The reporter asked them what their tip for a long lasting marriage was and one of their tips for a long and successful marriage is to have dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. The other tip was that you should say goodnight to one another every night and give a good night kiss, even if you might be angry with each other.  And that you should take care of each other.

Being able to talk to your partner cannot be understated.  Many people think they can talk to their partner, but can you really?  Can you bring up uncomfortable topics such as debt and how you will split the household finances and the budget?

What the Numbers Tell Us

According to a recent article by Time and Money, 40% of couples admitted that they did not discuss how they would manage the their money together before tying the knot.  Once people get absorbed and warped into the black hole of wedding planning, they forget about the important thing.  The marriage after that special day.  My friend who has been married for a little over the year told me that her husband was upset when she didn’t want to join everything they had (even money from previous to the marriage) because he wanted them to be a team.  Well, she agreed to join all their income into one joint account after the wedding, but when their spending got a bit too intense for their joint bank account, she had her previous savings to back them up and bail them out.

How to Have the Talk

Business Insider of all websites has a great primer on how to have the talk about money with your future partner.  Part of this money before marriage talk includes asking about their money philosophy, their assets (and debts), and whether the both of you should get a prenuptual agreement.  The earlier you have this talk, the better.  Meaning before the issues arise, it is easier to have the talk and it is more effective as it will bind your values and preferences together as a couple.  In addition, Huffington Post suggests that you have a talk about how your parents dealt with money, because we are heavily influenced (whether we like it or not) by our parents when it comes to money, how we deal and act in relationships, and even our values.

Hopefully this will be a gentle reminder for you to have the talk with your honey about money.  Grab a glass of wine or beer for that liquid courage (or just a glass of water if you feel totally comfortable talking about money in your relationship) and have the money talk!

Readers, did you talk to your partner about the nitty gritty of both of your money situations before you tied the knot? 

Article comments

Melinda says:

It’s great idea to have the talk, but one needs to be aware that partners are not honest about their situation and.will say whatever it takes to keep the relationship going especially if it’s in their best interests financially to do so. For example, the guy might be lazy and have little ambition. He can make promises to her that he’ll change and do better but I’ve seen and heard otherwise time and time again. Talk is cheap, but the other partner can’t make the one with the poor attitude change. The person has to somehow ensure that their own finances are protected. From experience I think women are especially at fault for believing their guy will step up and own up to his share of the responsibility even when it’s quite obvious that although he may appear to change slightly it won’t be not enough and will only bring her down financially.

Young says:

@Melinda- Yes, talk is cheap! I was dating a guy who said he valued the same things I did. But he was it debt. He said he would clear the debt in 3 months (it was a very measly amount, so small that I thought about paying it off for him) but he didn’t after 3 months came. I realized I needed to cut him out.

Scott H. says:

Most of my newlywed friends have no idea what their spouse is doing with their money. Both refuse to give the other power over their individual bank accounts, or share one bank account.

I hope you don’t mind sharing my experience. You can read about it in more detail here: http://youthfulinvestor.com/newlyweds-put-budgeting-first-hurt/

For my wife and I it was as easy as sitting down and just getting it out there. It was a bit nerve racking at first, but in all honesty wasn’t really that big of a deal. There’s nothing to hide. There’s no issue with pride. We didn’t worry about everything being fair or just. We rationalized that sometimes in our lives one of us is going to make more than the other and there will be times that one is doing more physically to contribute. This is just part of marriage and I love it. It’s a team effort.

Kyle says:

Thanks for the input Scott. Sounds like you and your wife are often to a great start! We’ll keep an eye our for your blog going forward.

Steve Miller says:

Good topic! My wife and I had the money talk and we combined our checking and financial accounts. I think a prenuptual agreement is a bit odd, it almost says you don’t trust your spouse and are not in it for the long term. It might be a good idea if one of you has a really high net worth but I would probably want the prenup to expire after 10 years or so.

Thanks for bringing up this top, it will be fun to see all the discussions on this.

Kiki says:

This is a really important conversion to have. No one wants to marry someone and get surprised with a mountain of debt.

We had this talk before we got serious and I moved in. He is a huge advocate for not carrying any unnecessary debt (ie credit card debt). I happen to have just become debt free, so he was happy that I had an idea of what I was doing and we discussed goals, savings and living expenses.

Today, we work together to keep debt away and to grow our wealth as a couple.

Money Beagle says:

My wife and I talked about money and even had our finances combined before we got married. Before we got engaged we knew about each others financial situation, and we also spent a lot of time talking about our goals. It’s important not just to know where you’re coming from but also where you are going. I like to think that this has helped us a lot along the way.

Young says:

@MB- That’s great! You’re one of the few who do 🙂