If there’s one thing I wish my husband and I had done before we got married, it’s having more conversations about money. We didn’t live together or share bills so there never seemed to be a reason to have those conversations. Our savings goals would come up in conversation occasionally and we’d give each other advice here and there, but the hard, tough questions and conversations we needed to have didn’t happen until after we married. Now it feels like we are working backwards a bit. Here’s the conversations I wish we’d had before saying “I Do.”
1. HOW WILL FINANCES BE HANDLED AS A COUPLE
This talk should include everything from who will be responsible for paying the bills, joint bank accounts and savings plans. Some people assume that once you’re married you’ll naturally fall into a “what’s mine is yours plan,” but one or both of you may prefer to keep things separate. The way we saw our parents handle money doesn’t mean it’s the way we have to do it. The most most important thing is that it’s being handled.
2. HOW MUCH DEBT WE’RE IN
The amount of debt each of you have will impact what you’re able to do as a couple. Think of all the money that goes towards your student loans, car notes or credit card bills that could be going toward a down payment on a house, your savings account or a really nice vacation. Lay all of your debt on the table, even the really big terrifying numbers. It will will probably be one of the most uncomfortable talks you have as a couple, but that just means you’re on the right track.
3. WHAT IS YOUR PLAN TO GET OUT OF DEBT
After you’ve established how much debt you have, the next question to ask is what you’re doing to get out of debt. There’s no wrong or right way to go about this, but it’s important to be on the same page about your debt elimination plan. I hate the idea of debt, so I always pay more than the minimum and am willing to make sacrifices such as skipping out on getting my nails done if it means that I can apply even more to my balance. My husband on the other hand believes in only having the debt paid off by the final payment date.
As you can see we are on the absolute opposite ends of the spectrum and with this comes tension. When it comes to our repayment plan we’ve agreed to meet in the middle.
He makes small sacrifices to pay more than the minimum and I allow myself small sums of “fun” money so we don’t live such a restrictive life. We regroup once a month to make sure the plan still works for our current situation and adjust when needed.
4. WHAT ARE YOUR SAVINGS GOALS AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO GET THERE
This one should probably be broken into three parts because you should have a conversation about short term goals, long term goals and couples goals.
I find this works best for us when we state a number for each level of our goals and then we make it into a little competition. For instance right now one of our couples/short term goals is to save $75 in our change jar before the end of the year. It’s so silly, but attaching a number AND making it into a competition takes some of the seriousness out of it and hold us more accountable. We do the same for our 401K, personal savings and joint savings. Then we map out what each of us will do to get us to our goal.
5. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER AS A LOT OF MONEY
What’s considered a lot of money to some won’t be a lot of money to others. Your spouse may think that a million dollars is a lot to retire with and you may think that isn’t enough. This is really about knowing and understanding how your partner thinks about money. It comes in hand for picking up on the red flags. For savings accounts, your spouse may think a few hundred is a lot and you may think at least 6 months of expenses is the bare minimum. This also helps when it comes to debt. Your spouse may think a few thousand dollars is a lot of debt and you may think a few hundred is a lot. This conversation is all about level setting.
6. WHAT YOU WERE TAUGHT ABOUT MONEY AS A CHILD
Our relationship with money is largely due to how we were taught about money as a child and unfortunately or fortunately, we carry those lessons with us into adulthood. Even if you weren’t taught about money as a child, that in itself is also a lesson.
Knowing about the relationship your spouse had with money as a child will give you great insight into the financial decisions they make as an adult.
What are other conversations that you’ve had with your spouse or partner? Share them in the comments below!