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Updated on Friday, February 12, 2016
When you’re getting married, there are a lot of really fun things to think about, and some potentially not-so-fun things to consider, as well. Aside from what flowers you’ll pick for your centerpieces and what color your bridesmaids dresses should be, one other pesky little topic to add to your pre-wedding checklist should be having a financial conversation with your soon-to-be spouse.
It might not seem like the most fun (having chats about money almost never is, like for example these awkward money talks to have with your partner), but talking to your spouse about money ahead of your wedding is a great way to set a financial foundation that will last you through the entire marriage.
“Not being honest with your partner is one of the biggest financial mistakes couples make when getting married,” says Christina Boyd, managing director and senior financial advisor with Merrill Lynch in Wayzata, MN. “This is important when it comes to all areas of your relationship — even money. Hiding your personal spending habits, including running up credit card debt, can cause mistrust later on.”
So where should you begin? To help walk you through some of the topics you should be sure to cover, we asked Boyd for some of the most important ones soon-to-be-married couples should discuss regarding finances. Here’s what she suggested.
1. Paying off college debt
As we already know, far too many people these days are still dealing with paying off their student loans after college, and those loans make up a large part of their overall financial planning that should be discussed ahead of marriage. “Paying down college debt is part of a comprehensive plan for financial health — you should look at your whole financial picture to determine a payment strategy that is manageable,” says Boyd.
For example, Boyd suggests focusing on the loans with the highest interest rates and paying those down first.
“In addition, discuss [with your partner] what will happen if one of you decides to go back to school,” she added. “Will that individual be working and going to school? Or will one spouse be supporting the couple? How will tuition be paid? Staying in sync about your goals is instrumental — for both your budget and peace of mind.”
Need a little more help figuring out how to pay down student loans? Check out this piece about how to lower student loan payments after filing a joint tax return.
2. Saving for your first house
One of the first major financial steps that many newly married couples make together is buying a house, so this is definitely a topic that you’ll want to chat about ahead of time to be sure you’re on the same page. “Having a ‘lay of the land’ conversation early on is a good idea to understand how much will need to saved and what lifestyle adjustments will need to be made to reach that goal,” says Boyd.
If you’re already in the market for a new house, check out this piece on nine tips for first-time homebuyers.
3. Setting up a rainy day fund
Whether you’re married or not, one very important financial aspect is saving up some cash so you’re covered should an emergency occur. “Couples should take the time to gain a clear understanding of their finances and help them to adjust their financial plan accordingly to mirror changes in income, expenses and obligations,” suggests Boyd. Things to discuss would include:
- How much you both feel you’d need to save to feel comfortable?
- How that money will be saved?
- What would constitute an “emergency” in terms of when you’ll withdraw money from this fund?
4. How will bills and household expenses get paid?
As mundane as the topic may seem, many couples fail to talk about the day-to-day minutia of living together as a married couple — namely who will pay the bills. “Determine what your day-to-day budget will look like,” says Boyd. “Will you both be working? How will your expenses change [when you marry]? Perhaps one or both of you will be giving up your apartment or home so that you can move in together. Will there be costs of moving or breaking a lease, or increases expenses of a larger place? Factor all of these things into your budget.”
While the above conversations might not seem sexy, preparing a financial foundation that both members of the soon-to-be-married couples are comfortable with will help make the transition from dating to getting married go much more smoothly, which makes them priceless.