Before couples say “I do,” they usually go through a lengthy wedding day checklist. While choosing the right attire, venue, and menu are all critical for the big day, some couples will forget to discuss topics that may affect their relationship after the honeymoon is long over.
However, it’s a good idea to bring up uncomfortable topics to get a gauge of how your partner will act. For example, knowing how your partner handles conflict, prefers to raise children, and expresses love can give you an idea of how your relationship will pan out over the next decade.
But the true culprit of marital or couple disputes is often money. In fact, one-third of couples report that finances are a major source of conflict. Compared to other touchy topics, discussions over money are often more intense and problematic and are less likely to be solved.
While couples who are seriously dating will talk about money at some point, they may stick to surface-level conversations that won’t include future family planning, travel, or donations.
According to studies, couples are more likely to argue about merging their money, debt, budgeting, investing, and savings than any other topic. Money is also one of the leading causes of divorce, so a conversation about money is essential to experience a long, happy marriage.
5 Money Conversations to Make Your Marriage Thrive
If you’ve already decided on a date, you likely want to spend your time planning your wedding. But if you want to experience a “Happily Ever After,” you need to discuss the following topics.
How Will We Split the Bills? What If We Can’t Keep That Arrangement?
It’s common for spouses to split the bills 50/50, regardless of how much each person makes. This arrangement sounds fair and can often be fair if couples make a similar amount of money or can come to a decision on how much to spend on necessities and non-necessities.
However, if one person in the couplet wants to save and the other doesn’t or makes much more less than the other, it could limit both people’s ability to spend. It’s a good idea to come up with a compromise. Otherwise, one person may hide how much they spend from the other spouse.
To ensure bill splitting is fair for both people, ask your spouse the following:
- Do you feel it’s fair to split the bills 50/50, regardless of how much we individually make?
- How would you spend any extra money? What are your financial goals?
- Would you be willing to use any extra money to fund a future goal, like owning a house?
- How will financial burdens be handled if you suddenly lose a job?
- How will we handle our finances if you decide to work part-time?
- Who will pay most of the bills if you have to care for a parent or go back to school?
- How much savings should we have in place if the unexpected happens?
It’s important to create specific scenarios when asking how you’ll split the bills, as your spouse will likely look at money differently depending on how you pose the question. You can even suggest ways to build financial security now, so bill splitting remains a positive topic.
How Will You Track Your Finances and Manage Long-Term Debt?
Paying attention to your spending habits will help you budget, and lowering your personal debt will help protect your financial future. The first problem is easy to solve, as couples can use financial insights apps and tools to track their spending, credit score, and debt payments.
However, actually paying off your debt can be challenging. Debt may limit a person’s spending choices, but every choice one spouse makes will affect the other. But debt is commonplace and isn’t always a result of someone’s bad choices. If they’re committed to paying it off, all is well.
Before getting married, ask the following questions about your spouse’s debt:
- Do you have any debt in a shared debt state, like Arizona or California?
- How much total debt do you have, and how long will it take to pay off?
- Are you committed to paying off your debt? Do you only pay the minimum?
- Do you frequently make payments on time? What is your current credit score?
- What do you use to track your spending? Do you put limits on your spending?
- Do you want me to help you pay off your bills, debts, or loans?
- What non-necessities should we sacrifice when restricting funds?
If your spouse doesn’t know how to start paying off their debts, suggest getting help from a financial expert. They can set them up with a repayment plan or teach them better habits.
Would You Describe Yourself as a Money Spender or a Saver?
Most people fall into one of five money personality types: big spenders, savers, shoppers, debtors, and investors. Ideally, you and your spouse will fall into the saver or investor category, but it’s fine if they don’t. It’s okay to splurge once in a while if you have the funds to support it.
At the same time, you need to decide if the way your partner spends money could spark a debate. If you think every penny should be saved, but your spouse prefers to live a luxurious lifestyle, would that upset you? Or would they be open to saving some of their extra money?
Your spouse’s habits can affect yours, so get a feel of their money personality by asking:
- Do you splurge on necessities, like groceries, homes, or cars?
- Are you comfortable with taking on more debt, even for luxury goods?
- Would you describe yourself as frugal? Would you consider investing?
- How much have you made from your investments? Do you work with an expert?
- Would you get upset if I spent money in a way you didn’t like?
- Would you be open to exploring a different way to spend money?
- Are you able to delay immediate satisfaction for future self-sufficiency?
Although we assume our partner will spend money in a similar way, that isn’t always the case. The way they spend could change based on what they’re buying or what mood they’re in.
When Would You Consider it Necessary to Dictate My Spending Habits?
Topics like financial abuse are hard to talk about, but they’re essential to bring up because 78% of Americans don’t consider financial abuse as domestic violence. Control comes in many forms, so it’s vital that you’re aware of the signs. This will allow you to seek help if you need it.
At the same time, your spouse may take control of your finances for a good reason, like if you’re overspending and you’re currently unemployed. But a loving partner wouldn’t cut you off without your consent or unless it was necessary. They should talk to you first before doing anything.
To assess whether your spouse would dictate your spending, ask the following:
- Would you want to open a joint bank account? If so, why?
- If I become unemployed, would you dictate my spending habits?
- What would you classify as an “irresponsible way to spend money?”
- If I spend money irresponsibly, would you cut me off? If so, why and for how long?
- Do you feel the spouse that makes the most should control the other’s spending habits?
- (If the spouse is wealthy) Do you think your background makes you better with money?
- Would you be okay with me deciding how you’ll spend your money? Why or why not?
Although there may be a rationale behind dictating a person’s spending priorities, it’s still important to cooperate as a team and be transparent about each other’s spending habits.
Will Our Extended Family Cause Us Significant Financial Pressure?
It can be expensive to raise children, but your spouse may have a different idea of what that means. For example, they may be calculating how much it will cost to raise a child until they’re 18, but what if they live with you longer? What if one of you wants to be a stay-at-home spouse?
Once you join a family, you also have to consider how much seeing or supporting them may cost. Some families rely on their children’s income, whereas others prefer to take luxurious vacations. Or, they may want to see you often, which may be difficult due to work or school.
If your spouse is close to their family or wants to have a family, ask these questions:
- Do you want me to be a stay-at-home spouse? Can I be a stay-at-home spouse?
- Do you want to put our children through college? Through extracurriculars?
- Are you okay with supporting our children if they don’t leave home at 18?
- Are you comfortable turning down your family if we can’t afford to see them?
- Do you want to financially support your parents after they retire?
- Does your family compete when it comes to gift giving? Personal possessions?
- How will your family react if I can’t go to a family gathering due to prior commitments?
There are few wrong answers to these questions, so it’s up to your preferences. For example, you may be okay with supporting your parents after they retire, but your spouse may not. Their reasons as to why they don’t want to support your parents are more important than the “no.”