Whether you’re just getting married or have been married for years, you’ve probably discussed all kinds of things: where to live, whether or not to have children, where you like to vacation, if you’ll get a dog or a cat (or both), and your hopes for the future. But have you ever had a serious conversation about money and your finances?
No, it’s not very romantic, but your finances are just as important as the love you have for each other. Did you know that money is the number one thing couples fight over and one of the leading causes of divorce? It’s true. So if you want to have a successful marriage, you must figure out how you’re going to handle your money.
The best way to do that? Talk. And talk some more. Talk before you get married and on a regular basis throughout your marriage.
Here are a few things to discuss before you get married:
• Will you have one joint or two separate accounts? How do you feel about each of you keeping some money separate to spend as you please?
• What about major purchases? Will you discuss them ahead of time?
• Who will pay the bills or will you do it together?
• Will you have one joint credit card or do you prefer to keep your credit histories separate?
• What if one of you makes a lot more than the other? Will you split things evenly?
Once you've committed to loving each other “for richer or poorer,” you need to keep the communication lines open and learn to be flexible. Some things to consider:
• Your goals and priorities - want to retire early? buy a big house? take fancy vacations? As the years go by and life happens, these may change. Be willing to discuss the changes and re-prioritize when necessary.
• Your debt - whether it’s school loans or credit cards and how you’re going to pay it off. Figure out a repayment plan that works for both of you and stick to it.
• Your accounts - it may be better to have a joint account so there’s no friction between partners based on who makes more or spends more. If you prefer to keep your money separate, open one account for your savings so you’ll have better access to credit and the opportunity to make some good investments.
• Your strengths - you may be better at the day-to-day stuff while your spouse is better at investing and focusing on the big picture.
• Your financial decisions - make the big ones together. Be sure to define big!
• Your future - get a prenuptial agreement, especially for a second marriage, to protect any children you might have.
To live happily ever after financially, make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to your money and when you’re not, agree to disagree and figure out a workable compromise. Be upfront and honest with each other. There’s nothing like opening your credit card bill to find your partner has charged hundreds of dollars worth of stuff after you’ve both agreed to only use it for emergencies. Finally, don’t ever let money equal power in your relationship. If you do, you may end up saying goodbye to your happily ever after.