Money: A 10-Point Conversation Guide for the Newly Engaged
The list of to-dos for the modern-day engaged couple is seemingly endless. But once you share the good news with family and friends, a wise next step is to sit down with your betrothed for a heart-to-heart about money.
Sure, part of that is determining what you want to spend on things relating to the engagement, wedding and potential honeymoon. (In fact, experts say how you handle these money matters could be a good indicator of your long-term financial compatibility.) But we’re talking about getting on the same financial page ... well, presumably, till death do you part.
And we don’t mean to sideline your merrymaking. In fact, we think having this talk will help ensure your happiness forever after. Money is one of the most common reasons people give for marital problems and divorce. Communication is another. If you and yours openly discuss your money philosophy, goals and concerns early in the relationship – and continuously throughout your marriage – you’re likely to reap rich rewards.
Beyond working through the budget for the big day, here are 10 money topics you’ll want to discuss:
1. Money Style
Share with your spouse-to-be your money values. What’s important to you? What are you willing to sacrifice? Also, be honest about your spending and saving tendencies. How have each of you managed your money to this point? How will you change moving forward? When it comes to money matters, agree to always listen to your partner with an open mind and be honest about your decision making.
2. Goals and Dreams
How do you want to spend your money? How much do you want to save? Do you want to buy a house, travel, have children, pay for your own or your children’s education, give generously to charities, support aging parents? What is your plan to achieve your agreed-upon priorities?
How will you manage your finances together? Think short-term cash flow, long-term investments and even what happens after you’re gone. Will you hold separate accounts, joint accounts or find a middle ground? Be as specific as possible and allow yourselves opportunities to adjust as you navigate through life and its many twists and turns.
Designate who will be responsible for what when it comes to paying bills and monitoring spending. Regardless of how you divvy up responsibilities, ongoing communication and transparency will safeguard your financial relationship.
Consider enrolling in a financial management class, hiring a financial advisor or seeking out other guidance to ensure fiscal success.
What are you bringing in now and what do you project for the future? How long do you expect your future spouse to work? How will you each support the other in your money-earning endeavors? When do you envision retiring? (It’s never too early to think about that day and plan for it.)
What financial obligations – credit cards, loans, automobile notes/leases, mortgages – do you each have? What is your plan for carrying debt as you move forward?
Get and share your credit reports. Be sure you understand the scores and how they may work for or against you in future purchasing. Also, ensure that they are accurate; if there is a mistake, you have the right to file a dispute with the credit bureau and have errors corrected. Accept your starting place as a couple.
Start building a list of all expenses – with contingencies built in – and agree on how you will manage.
Don’t make money discussions too big of a deal. Have them regularly and try to keep emotions in check. It’s a good idea to come together in a more formal manner at least twice per year to review your financial health and plan for moving forward.