Did you get engaged over the holidays? That will kick off an exciting time of premarital planning — for showers and parties, the big day itself, a honeymoon, and even settling on where you will live. Just don’t forget to have the money talk with your sweetheart.
Actually, experts say it’s wise and healthy to have more like a running money dialogue.
Here's how one writer explains the importance of couples discussing financial matters before they head down the aisle: “Once you’re married, you’ll be creating a life together. You’ll work toward most of your big dreams and long-term goals — kids, houses, retirement — together, and all involve money.”1
The list of specific financial topics that experts suggest engaged couples discuss is a long one, but here are five core matters to cover before your wedding day:
Initial Topics to Discuss
▪ What assets and liabilities do each of you bring into the marriage?
Start your money dialogue by putting your cards on the table. For instance, each of you needs to reveal your salaries and other resources, such as 401(k) and other investments.
Also, what debts do each of you have? Be fully transparent about credit card debt and outstanding loans for school, cars and homes. Be sure to reveal other financial obligations, such as child support, alimony, elder care or large outstanding bills.
▪ How will you integrate your finances?
One of you might assume you will have joint bank accounts and all assets under both of your names. But does that work for both of you? Discuss whether either of you would like to maintain separate accounts, or if there is a desire to have both separate accounts — to retain some financial independence — and a joint account for paying for things like food, child care and monthly bills.
▪ How will you divide up financial responsibilities?
You’re both used to paying bills and managing your finances. So when you get married, who does what?
If one of you is more financially savvy or actually enjoys balancing a checkbook, this might be an easy discussion. But if you both enjoy the control you have today over your money, and don’t want to give that up, you may have to negotiate roles and duties.
One caveat: Even if you agree one of you will act as the chief financial officer, it’s important to keep the other informed about account balances, any developing debt issues and all relevant passwords — in case the “CFO” is ever sidelined.
▪ What are your short-term and long-term financial goals?
In other words, what are you saving and investing your money for? Short-term, for instance, how much do you plan to spend on your wedding, and how will you pay for it?
And do your long-term financial goals align? For example, do you both share as a primary long-term goal to buy a certain type of home? Is there are trip of a lifetime you both want to take in 10 years? What kind of retirement do you both envision?
Couples need to get used to regularly discussing their common financial goals.
Avoiding Discord Through Communication
In one recent study of American couples, nearly 6 in 10 said they avoid bringing up money on a daily or weekly basis with their partner.2 If you concede that — as many experts suggest — productive conversations about planning, saving and investing are crucial to ensure happy, enduring marriages, this lack of communication can lead to marital discord.
It's worth noting that financial stress is the second leading cause of divorce, blamed by almost 40% of divorcing couples.3
So when you’re celebrating your engagement, don’t forget to set a date — a date, that is, when you and your intended can sit down and start planning your financial life together.
1 “17 conversations to have about money before getting married,” July 21, 2022, https://www.moneycrashers.com/money-conversations-before-getting-married/
2 “How to have the money talk before marriage,” Nov. 10, 2021, https://www.incharge.org/blog/how-to-have-the-money-talk-before-marriage/
3 “Where’s the romance? Why (and how) to talk money when you’re set on marriage,” May 6, 2022,