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3 Money Conversations to Have Before You Get Married

Last updated May 9, 2024

Studies show that money is one of the most divisive issues for married couples.1 In fact, some experts say that fights about money are a bigger predictor of divorce than almost anything else, and pose one of the biggest threats to the satisfaction someone gets from their relationship.2 Considering these troubling stats, it’s safe to say that talking about money is critical before taking the plunge into marriage.

It’s not the most romantic topic, but it’s one of the most crucial conversations you’ll have as partners! Here are a few things you both should do before tying the knot.

Talk openly about your financial backgrounds.

When two people enter a relationship, they bring their own values, ideas, and perceptions with them. Many of these values, ideas, and perceptions come from early experiences (whether positive or negative), and combine to create a “money personality”3 that determines how a person thinks about and interacts with their finances.

For example, someone who grew up in a wealthy home may view money more positively, but spend it more carelessly; meanwhile, their partner from a less affluent background might worry more about money and be more restrictive in their spending. As they bring their lives together, this couple may experience friction when their money personalities conflict. You don't have to have matching "money personalities" to have a long and successful relationship, but it's important to know where you both stand. 

Discuss your incomes and determine responsibilities.

When a couple combines their lives and their finances, they often default to splitting expenses (ex. rent, utilities, groceries) straight down the middle, with the understanding that whatever each has left is theirs to do with as they please. But this plan overlooks something important: it’s unlikely that they both make the same amount of money. If one makes significantly more than the other, resentment can brew if the one who makes less feels like they’re being expected to contribute too much. 

There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for how to divide financial responsibilities, so it's a good idea to discuss your situation as a couple and find a solution that feels fair for both of you.

Be honest with each other about any debts you’re carrying.

Between credit cards, student loans, car loans, and more, over 80% of couples begin their marriage with debt; and yet, less than half of them discuss debt with their partner before walking down the aisle.4 Additionally, although getting married doesn’t affect your credit score in and of itself, your joint scores will be considered when it comes time to get an apartment or buy a home together. If one of you has significant debt and/or a lower credit score, it can impact your future goals. Avoid surprises down the road by having a conversation now about your current debts and any credit struggles you have.

Your Pre-Nuptial Checklist

These conversations can feel awkward if you haven’t talked about money with your partner before. (In fact, many people would prefer to talk about other potentially uncomfortable topics, such as religion or politics, rather than discuss their finances.)5 Make it easier on yourself and use these tips to guide your conversation.

  1. Take a deep dive into each of your backgrounds relating to money. Explore how your families used and talked about their finances, and consider how these familial attitudes may have influenced your thoughts and behavior today.
  2. Make two lists: one of everything you’ll be responsible for as a couple, and one listing both of your incomes (including any money you have coming in from side jobs, child support, alimony, etc.) Divvy up your financial responsibilities in a way that feels fair to both of you. 
  3. Have an open dialogue about your debts and obligations, and make a plan together for how you’ll eliminate them as a team. This may include taking on extra jobs, making a stringent budget, and/or consolidating your debt
  4. Discuss any joint goals you may have that can be affected by your credit score, such as buying a home or starting a business. If one (or both) of you could use a credit boost, check out our free Credit Health tool! It monitors your score and offers regular updates, tips, and tricks to boost your financial wellness.

Talking about finances with someone you love can be intimidating, but it’s a critical step if you plan to join your lives together. By discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of your individual financial histories and current status, you’ll set the foundation for a strong future together.

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