In an ideal world, you and your spouse would have a very clear picture of your views on religion, politics, kids, and finances.

But in reality, most couples talk about everything else except how they plan to manage finances as a couple. You’d think we would give it more though considering that it is one of the top causes for divorce, but usually, we are embarrassed to discuss for fear of looking like a gold digger or a financial dead weight compared to our spouses. 

But whether you are in a relationship and just starting to get serious, or already married and haven’t given it much consideration, there are some essential conversations you’ll want to have to ensure you are preparing for a  financially healthy and successful marriage.

1. How do we want to tackle our debts (old and new)?

You and your hunny had fully functioning adult lives before you got married. And you bring your own financial baggage with you on your way through the door. You and your hunny have to decide how you want to handle this baggage and determine which debts will be shared or handled separately. If you need more detail on how to handle your current and future debts then check out this article. But to give you an idea of what to discuss, here is a summary of the debts you’ll want to think about:

  1. Debts acquired you or your spouse acquired before getting married – this is debt that you or your spouse brings into the marriage. Will these be paid separately by the owner, or jointly as a couple
  2. Separate debts acquired by individually by a spouse while married – these are debts that a spouse might have on credit cards, or a personal loan or a car loan that is acquired while married but is not ‘technically’ joint debt.
  3.  Shared debts acquired during the marriage for the couple (regardless of whose credit it’s on)  – For example, family vacations that go on a credit card for points. If you pay using your card, are you paying the bill alone or is your spouse contributing to the payment? How will you classify these debts?
  4. Joint debt – debts that are incurred where both parties are responsible for paying the debt. These types of debt include the shared mortgage on the house if you bought it together, joint credit cards etc.

Don’t get bogged down by the different types. You can make this as simple as everyone pays their own way, or as complex as you and your spouse want to make it. This is your world, and you build it how you like.

2. What are we doing with everyday expenses and bills?

Similarly to the debt conversation, you gotta decide how bills will be handled. Whether it’s a utility bill or the restaurant bill what’s the plan so you both can be on the same page. To get the full list of how you can divy up your bills, check out this post, but here are the most common ways to divide up the bills that you can think about:

Here are some options on how to do it:

  1. Each person picks a bill
  2. Bills are split in some decided fashion
  3. One person pays everything

Here’s how to start the conversation:

3. What’s our money goal, and how will we reach it?

The most important part of a relationship is knowing that you are working together for the same goal. You can’t assume that your partner wants the same thing as you or have the same plan for how to get there. You both might want early retirement, but you might think the best way to get there is to save while your partner thinks you should start a business. Both will work, but they are different strategies and require allocation of the finances differently.

Spend the time to find out what you want and how you want to get there by asking the right questions. 

Here are some common couples goals:

  1. Be able to go on an annual internal vacation
  2. Pay for our children’s college education

Here’s how to start the conversation

Ready for The Talk

All of these are topics for discussion and suggestions on what you can do. The one(s) for you is the one that works. There are no right or wrong answers. In fact, there are no permanent answers either. What works now might not work 6 months from now, or after you have kids, etc.

The goal is to come out of the talks with a clear understanding of your contribution to the finances of the family and agreeing how debts and feeling comfortable with your role.

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