Let’s let the cat out of the bag from the start, this is the conversation no one wants to have as they embark on what should be one of the happiest times in their life! No, no, no I’m not talking about getting a new puppy, I am talking about the conversation centered around money before your big wedding day. As someone who is getting married himself in a couple of weeks, I think this is a timely moment to have this conversation. Studies show that money is the number one topic married couples argue about and the leading source of stress. Depending on who you ask or where you look, it is also commonly one of the top three reasons that lead to divorce. It is tough to say how much this could be reduced by asking, discussing, and conversating over a few simple questions from the get go, but I think it is fair to say it would have some positive effect.
You may be asking yourself, well, what are the right questions. Each situation is different and the same discussions don’t pertain to everyone, but I think these basic questions are a great place for couples to use as a starting point.
- What are our financial goals? What are you trying to accomplish financially over the next 1,3,5,10,20, or 50 years? Is it a new home or saving for an early retirement. Without having this conversation, how are each of you to know what the other is thinking?
- What do each of you have for assets and liabilities? Chances are you both probably have some sort of idea on this. But, to use a wedding term, “for better or for worse”, there could be something you don’t know about.
- Should you join your current bank accounts? How will financial responsibilities be shared? Opinions may vary on this and that is ok. There is no right way to do things, it’s what works for you and keeps the stress level low that is the right way. It may be some sort of combination of joint and separate accounts that works, but whatever it is, be sure you both equally agreed upon that choice.
- Do you have a budget? For starters, be sure that all necessities are paid for first and then decide how much discretionary expenses you both are ok with spending
- Have adequate life insurance. This isn’t an amount that is going to make the other one “rich” should something happen to the other partner. It’s an amount that is going to be able to leave the other one without worry and the ability to grieve properly without a financial burden.
- Have an estate plan. For young couples going into their first marriage with no kids, this isn’t as high on the priority list. But for couples entering a second or third marriage with grown kids, this is a must have conversation and can help to protect all involved should a catastrophe happen.
In no way do these six questions cover every financial aspect that should be discussed when entering marriage. But I do think they can serve as a good starting point for getting the conversation started. I am no therapist, but when having these conversations, it is important to let the person talking get their full thought across without interruption. I know my fiancé always tells me, just because that’s how you would do it doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it, and she is right. Chances are that a lot of the above questions are going to need to end in a compromise, and they should. It’s not just about you or them anymore, you are a team emotionally and financially – “till death do you part”.