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How to Talk Finances Before Marriage: 6 Topics to Cover


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Okay, so the post I have on conversations you need to have with your boyfriend before moving in together is still one of my most popular posts of all time. And it's a great post! There's a lot of overlap between that post and this one. The main difference is if you've answered some of those questions (but not all), or if you're moving in together for the first time after the wedding, this post is a quick guide on how to talk about finances before marriage and what you absolutely must talk about before you're legally married.

I also had a chance to stop by Atlanta & Company to chat about this topic as well. Check out the full video below.

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How to Talk About Finances Before Marriage: A Guide

Below is an outline of everything you should *definitely* cover before marriage. As I stated in the video, the best way to tackle this discussion is to pick a date and a time for a “money date” where you sit down together and very intentionally go through these topics one by one.

This way, you won't forget something, and there's also nowhere to hide. I know these conversations can be uncomfortable, but after ten years of writing about money, I can advocate that the best way to confront these “awkward” money conversations is head-on.

And for more advice (including my own) check out this post.

6 Financial Topics to Talk About Prior to Walking Down the Aisle

  1. Income
  2. Debt
  3. Housing
  4. Budget & Accounts
  5. Financial Goals
  6. Family

Income

Obviously, if you're to the point of marriage, you should know how much your partner makes and vice versa. It's important if you're going to be a family unit, to know how much spending power you have as a family.

Don't forget to be transparent about any side hustle income, child support/alimony if you give or receive it, and (if this is your second marriage), or any future inheritances.

Debt

The way debt gets handled in any couple is, ultimately, up to the couple themselves. But since debt can drastically impact your household budget, couples need to discuss this before walking down the aisle too. Some sample questions for this include:

  • Do you have student loans? If so, how much do you make a month in student loan payments?
  • Do you have credit card debt? if so, how much and at what interest rate?
  • Are you liable for any other types of debt, (e.g. medical debt or an auto loan?)
  • What is our plan for paying the debt off? Will we use our joint money or is it for the person to take on the debt?

Housing

There are many questions surrounding housing that will come up once you are married and/or living together. The questions below are more of a guide for discussions if you guys are planning to buy a home together once you're married.

Sample questions include:

  • What is your credit score?
  • How much do you have in savings?
  • How much of that savings would you want to use for a down payment?
  • What do you think is a reasonable amount to spend on a monthly mortgage/rent payment?

Budget & Accounts

In full transparency, this “budgeting and accounts” section is fourth but it is one of the most important. Maybe not as important as debt discussions, but it's important to fully flesh these out as this is where most of the day to day landmines between couples (again, that I've seen in ten years of writing about money) occur.

With money being one of the main causes of divorce, being on the same page about many of these questions will set your marriage off on the right financial footing.

Sample questions include:

What is our monthly household budget after factoring in both of our incomes?

  • How will we split living expenses (50-50 or by share of income?)
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring the bills get paid on time each month?
  • If one person pays a bill, how will reimbursement occur?
  • Will we have joint or separate accounts?
  • Are we getting a joint credit card?
  • How will personal expenses be paid?
  • How much can one person spend without running it by the other?
  • How much can one person spend?

Financial Goals

Financial goals are (obviously) important and one of the big benefits of marriage is that now you're on a team and can tackle financial milestones with the power of two.

Sample questions include:

  • What are our individual financial goals?
  • What are our joint financial goals?
  • How will we handle saving for retirement?
  • How will we handle savings for vacations and other large purchases?
  • What will we save for together? Separately?

Family

If conversations about budgeting, accounts, and day-to-day financial household management are where the little money fights occur, the familial money questions are the ones that can create massive, divorce-level rifts if they aren't tended too. When talking about how to discuss finances before marriage, it's very intuitive to discuss income, debts, and goals, but the more nuanced questions around how to handle money with external family members can really blindside couples if they're not proactive about discussing it first.

Sample questions include:

  • Are we planning for children? (Please for the love of all that is money discuss this before you get married to someone. And don't assume they'll change their minds!)
  • How will we handle familial obligations around money? Is it okay to take money from parents?
  • How will we tackle spending during the holidays? Joint wedding and graduation gifts?
  • What will we do if a family member needs a loan?
  • What is our budget for vacations with extended family?

The TL:DR

Again, the above is just a guide and primer to get the conversations rolling. You may find that once you start talking, you cover other important items that, perhaps, maybe you didn't know were important until they were brought up. This is both totally okay and normal!

The important thing is: be intentional, set a date, have the money conversations.

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