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Talking about money with your partner can help set you up for a stronger relationship in the future. So it’s a good idea to discuss finances before marriage.
Talking about your finances may not be as fun as sampling cake, trying on dresses or suits, and touring venues. However, it can help you and your partner start your life together without worrying about how you’ll pay for it.
How does money affect relationships?
Money can have a significant impact on your relationship. A study found that 60% of Americans believe money is the leading cause of stress in their relationships. Of those polled, 79% went on to reveal that money issues strained their relationships. Further, the study showed that 67% of respondents argued with their significant other about money.
Simply put, money—and stressing about it—can take a toll on your relationship.
It may seem easier to put off conversations about future financial concerns while planning a wedding. But aligning your goals with your partner now may help reduce financial surprises in the future.
This advice doesn’t only apply to engaged couples or newlyweds. Married couples can benefit from discussing their current financial situation and future goals. In fact, it’s a good idea to revisit the topic regularly as the dynamics of your relationship change.
We created this guide to help you address 10 crucial financial questions before (or after!) your special day. Read on for some of the most important money talks to have with your partner, plus tips on how to start the conversation and stay on the same page year after year.
10 financial questions to ask before marriage
Carve out some time in your schedule for you and your partner to chat. Remember, you don’t have to tackle every question in one sitting. Instead, start at the top and work your way through the list.
1. How much debt do you have?
You and your partner may already know the answer to this question. But if you don’t, it’s a good place to start.
Your future spouse may end up bringing debt, such as student debt or credit card debt, into the marriage. Although this debt is in their name and not yours, it could still affect your short-term cash flow and your long-term savings goals.
For instance, imagine your future spouse uses a large portion of their paycheck to repay debt. If that’s the case, you may need to use more of your paycheck for other expenses. Furthermore, you may not be able to save as much as you had hoped until your partner pays down their debt.
2. How will we handle finances in our marriage?
This question can feel loaded—and with good reason. This question addresses more than who keeps an eye on your checking and saving accounts. It also opens a conversation about who will hold the most financial responsibility in the relationship.
After asking this question, prepare to discuss money management issues, such as:
- Will we combine our incomes or keep them separate?
- Will we share expenses or split them? If so, how will we split them?
- Who will be responsible for paying bills each month?
- How much will we contribute to life insurance, IRAs, or a 401k?
- Will we invest in the stock market regularly?
- Who will manage our household budget?
- How often will we revisit our financial goals?
3. Should we have separate or joint bank accounts?
Another factor to consider before getting married is whether you want to combine your bank accounts. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s based on your needs and preferences and those of your partner.
If you’re undecided, you may decide to create one joint account and separate “fun money” accounts. You can fund your joint checking or savings account with the majority of your income. Then, designate a certain amount each month to your individual accounts.
A joint account will ensure you have a clear picture of your financial standing. At the same time, your fun-money accounts will allow you to make purchases or save as you see fit.
4. What’s the most we can spend before consulting each other?
Setting clear guidelines on purchase limits can help both parties feel more confident with spending. This is especially true if one of you is a big spender and the other prefers to save. You’ll each have the freedom to make purchases while avoiding feelings of financial micromanagement.
5. If a family member or friend asks to borrow money, how will we respond?
More than likely, you won’t need to consult your spouse if a co-worker needs to borrow $20 to pay for their lunch. But what if a close friend runs into tough financial circumstances or your aging parents haven’t saved enough for retirement?
Get on the same page about providing financial support to loved ones as soon as possible. That way, you’ll avoid the emotional stress—and power struggle—that can come with requests like these.
6. What are your financial goals?
You and your future spouse don’t have to be totally in sync when it comes to your financial decisions. Personal finance is personal, after all.
With that said, it’s important to have some alignment. If you’re planning to keep your monthly expenses to a minimum and retire early, your spouse needs to know. Similarly, if your partner wants a larger home, a nicer car, and a private school education for your future children, you need to be aware.
7. How much should we save each month?
Everyone has a different money mindset, especially when it comes to spending and saving money. To find out where your partner falls, ask about their saving habits and what they spend their money on. Then, determine a few savings goals together.
For example, you may want to put a certain amount of money away for a house down payment each month. Or you may plan to start saving early for your kids’ college tuition or annual vacations. Regardless of the end goal, create a plan that works for you both.
8. Will we both work if we have kids?
This question can become contentious if you and your partner have differing opinions. It’s essential to get on the same page before you have children.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but try to come to a decision together. Otherwise, misaligned expectations could turn into anger or resentment over who stays home and who becomes the main financial contributor.
9. Do you prefer to use cash or credit cards to make purchases?
Some people prefer to use credit cards for almost every purchase while others are firm believers in cash-only. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here.
Instead, it’s more important to understand your partner’s spending philosophy. For instance, you may subscribe to the cash-only mindset while your partner prefers to rack up rewards or points on their credit cards. If that’s the case, you may compromise by establishing spending and repayment guidelines that apply to both parties.
10. When do you think it’s okay to go into debt?
Finally, determine when you and your partner think it’s okay to go into debt. For most people, taking out a mortgage, a student loan, or a wedding loan may be a no-brainer.
Others may prefer to save up until they can cover the costs with cash. To reduce the risk of arguments down the line, set clear expectations and make a plan for handling major expenses.
How to talk about finances with your partner:
Depending on where you are in your relationship, you may be wondering how to have the money talk with your spouse or your significant other. You’re not alone.
Fortunately, it’s more than worth the time and effort. You’ll reduce the risk of stress, fights, and guilt in the long run. You’ll also improve the financial fairness in your relationship. Most importantly, you’ll gain a better understanding of your partner’s goals and priorities.
And if you discover your financial priorities aren’t aligned, that’s okay. You may decide to seek out premarital financial counseling or a financial planner to help you prioritize, compromise, and find common ground.
It all starts with an open, honest conversation. Consider the following tips to get the conversion going:
- Let your partner know you want to talk. Money is a loaded subject for many reasons, ranging from self-esteem to childhood experiences and more. With that in mind, let your partner know you want to talk about money well in advance.
- Acknowledge the awkwardness. Discussing the finer details of your finances—like your spending habits and debt—can be uncomfortable. Make space for the discomfort by acknowledging it and establishing a judgment-free zone.
- Set a structure. Work with your partner to establish a loose agenda for your conversation. You don’t need to have every point set in stone, but determine the key topics you’d like to address.
- Don’t put any pressure on the first conversation. This will be the first of many talks about money and relationships, so don’t try to solve everything in one night. You may be able to tackle a few important topics, but creating a budget or determining the best way to repay your debt may take some time.
- Make it part of your routine. Finally, make it a habit to revisit financial discussions before and after your marriage. Financial planning, budgeting, and spending habits evolve with time. As a rule of thumb, plan to discuss money matters regularly, especially when preparing for major life changes like kids, new jobs, or continuing education.
Money and marriage: Learning how to handle finances in a relationship
Whether you just popped the question or said “I do” years ago, right now is the best time to talk about your finances. Getting clear on your current financial circumstances and long-term goals can help ease stress. It also allows you to work together to create a plan for your future.
Bottom line, make it a priority to discuss your finances regularly. That way, you’ll stay on the same page with your partner while staying on track with your financial goals.