Money and Marriage—5 Financial Topics to Discuss Before Marriage
In the midst of wedding plans, financial discussions tend towards how much money should be spent on rings, the reception and the honeymoon. But when reality intervenes, the differences in how partners view budgets and other money topics can lead from minor disagreements to major battles.
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (aka “Dr. Romance”), a psychotherapist who has been counseling individuals and couples for more than four decades, shares her advice on topics couple should discuss with each other before they tie the knot.
5 Financial Topics to Discuss Before Marriage
1. Family Attitudes About Money
The family you grew up in shapes unconscious behavior, values and reactions regarding money. It’s important to know if you have vastly different backgrounds regarding money. With that in mind, discuss each of the following with your partner.
- Did your family resent rich people or think being poor indicates a character flaw?
- Was money used as a reward or a way to control other family members?
- Were your parents or other family members extravagant with gifts?
- What about budgets and savings—was this something your parents emphasized or disregarded?
2. Financial Responsibilities for Other People
When one or both partners is financially responsible for children from other relationships or other dependents, it can affect joint finances. You both should have a full and honest understanding of how these financial responsibilities will affect current and future plans for your future.
- Is there child support to pay? If so, when does that expense terminate?
- Are there other expenses such as travel, education and other expenses for those children?
- Will you have to have a bigger home to accommodate visits from the children?
- If there are other dependents—elderly parents or disabled siblings, for example—what is the extent of the financial obligations? Are there other, non-financial obligations that need to be taken into account?
3. Lifestyle Choices
From dining out to home purchases, personal spending to vacation plans, couples rarely come into a marriage in perfect agreement. The more you can discuss and understand about your personal views and preferences, the better the odds you can reach an agreement.
- Food is a big part of any budget, and it gets bigger if you eat out a lot. How much will you be spending on food versus dining in restaurants? Will you both share shopping and food preparation tasks? (This can be a great way to learn more about each other’s preferences and habits.)
- What about entertainment and vacation plans? Do you share similar tastes and preferences, or is one of you a “big spender” while the other is more of a penny-pincher? Can you two reach a middle ground and set some parameters?
- Do you two agree on housing costs or are you at opposite ends of the spectrum: single-bedroom apartment versus six-bedroom luxury home? What will be your living arrangements after marriage: moving into one person’s home or buying a house together?
- What kind of arrangement will you have regarding personal spending? Will it be a 50/50 arrangement with you both having equal amounts of discretionary cash or will it be based on some other factor?
4. Finances and Budget
For those who have been living on their own for some time and are used to making their own financial decisions, joint sharing can be akin to culture shock. Rather than make assumptions based on what other people (or your parents) did, you need to decide how the two of you will handle financial arrangements going forward.
- How do you two plan to share your finances? Will you pool your resources, or just share joint expenses, and have the rest of your income separate?
- If one of you is not working outside the home, how will this impact the financial decision-making process? Will one person have more say in how money is spent?
- If one of you comes into the marriage with more financial liabilities (loans or credit card debt, for example), will these become joint bills to be shared by both or remain the responsibility of the person who incurred the debt?
- Once you two are living together, will you share bill-paying and financial decision-making arrangements or will one of you take the lead role?
- What are your plans as a couple for saving and investing, retirement planning and other money decisions? Do you two share the same vision and goal for your life together after ten, twenty, thirty years?
- What about charitable giving—will you treat charitable donations as expenses equally shared by both, or will it be handled separately by each person? Will there be a set limit for the amount that will be donated on an annual basis?
- What about financial debts such as mortgages, car loans or other debts—will these be joint liabilities?
Even though it may be a few years down the road, this is the time to consider whether both of you want children. They are a major investment, and you need to know how you feel about all the issues that parenting brings.
- Will you share childcare responsibilities or will one of you be assuming greater responsibilities or perhaps even full-time parenting duties?
- How do you each feel about education—private or public, college or technical training?
- What about other expenses such as clothes, toys and electronics—will you two work within a budget, or will one parent play “Santa” with the other assigned the role of “Scrooge”?
“These are just some of the areas you should discuss before you get married,” says Dr. Tessina. “And as life circumstances change, be prepared to revisit some of these points and adjust them to meet new situations and requirements.”
Our thanks to Dr. Tessina for this helpful information!
About Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.
Dr. Tessina is a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California since 1978 with over 40 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples. She is also the author of 15 books in 17 languages including Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today.
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