Isn’t it interesting? As women we find it easy to talk to our boyfriends or significant others about everything—everything, that is, except money. But with the divorce rate stuck on 50% largely due to money issues, this is the one topic that we should be talking about. And having the money talk as soon as possible in your relationship (before you get married is the best time) is a great way to build a money smart marriage.
So what exactly is the money talk? The money talk is a serious conversation about your money goals, beliefs, attitudes, and money management styles. It can be an eye-opening experience with some very surprising results. While I’m not advocating that you leave or choose not to marry someone simply because you don’t think the same way about money, you shouldn’t ignore that fact either. The money talk offers you the opportunity to discover things you have in common, set some ground rules, and work out compromises where needed so that you can not only have a happier marriage but you can also work toward financial security.
So where should you start? Start with the basics and then work you way into more complicated discussions. Here are a few suggestions for those contemplating marriage:
- Talk about your goals, including any specific financial aspirations.
- Discuss your feelings about credit and debt, and how you each think it should be handled. This is also a good time to share your credit reports* and discuss any outstanding debts you each have and how they will be handled during the marriage.
- Discuss ‘what if’ scenarios to get a better feel for how your partner would make money decisions in specific situations. (See also the Love and Money Quiz.)
- Discuss your money management styles, and how you each believe you should manage your money during the marriage. For example:
- Will you have one checking account that you both use? Or will you have three checking accounts — his, hers, and household? If you will have three accounts, how will the household account be funded?
- Will you manage your finances together, split up the tasks, or will one spouse be responsible for it all?
- Who will answer to whom about how the money is spent?
- If you are thinking about requesting a pre- or postnuptial agreement, discuss the subject as early as possible so you can give your partner time to think about how it might be beneficial for both of you. Some of reasons why you might want a pre- or postnuptial agreement include:
- You have assets such as a home, stock, or retirement funds that you want to protect
- You own all or part of a business and you want to protect your future interests
- You may be receiving an inheritance
- You have children/grandchildren from a previous marriage and you want to be sure that they will be taken care of after your death
- Your spouse-to-be is paying child support from a previous marriage
- You have agreed to pay for the professional education of your spouse-to-be and you want to be sure that you will benefit from the income that she/he will receive in the future
The ‘money talk’ can be intense, so don’t feel like you have to get it all done in one day. This discussion should be an ongoing dialogue. Communication is key to building a strong marriage and just talking about money is a great place to start. ps!