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Marriage and Finances: What to do before you say, “I do”

marriage and money

When my husband and I got married, we were a bit surprised to find out just how much combined debt we each had. We had been dating for almost five years before we got married. We had kind of discussed finances and how we would do things but in all honesty; we had discussed the wedding budget and the finances of that big event a lot more than we discussed the finances of our other big event, namely the rest of our lives together!

Money and money management (or the lack thereof) is the biggest source of arguments and stress in a marriage (and the number one reason for divorces). Of course, there are two sides to every issue and it falls to both partners in a relationship to seek answers and information in regards to their future spouse’s finances. A person who puts their head in the sand is as guilty as the person who didn’t disclose information in the first place. Here are a few things to work out before you walk down the aisle;

-Full disclosure- Surprising your new spouse with your debt load AFTER the wedding ceremony is unfair and can lead to hard feelings which will undoubtedly lead to arguments. Don’t forget that NOT asking about your future spouse’s finances makes your just as responsible. Sit down and share everything!

-Credit score- I recently heard a wonderful statement about your credit score. “Your credit score is your adult report card. It tells everyone how you manage your finances and possibly your life.” Credit scores are now reviewed by potential employers, insurance companies, lenders, cell phone companies (before they give you a contract) and utility suppliers. A bad credit score will mean you’re paying more for auto insurance, loans (if you can get one at all) and possibly stuck in a lousy job. Love doesn’t necessarily conquer all, especially when it comes to money! Both of you need to share your credit scores with each other and understand what ramifications a bad score will have on your financial relationship and future plans.

-Discuss who is going to handle paying the bills. Finding out three months into your marriage, when the electricity is turned off, that both of you thought the other was paying the bills (because you both hate doing it) isn’t a good way to start your relationship together. This does NOT mean that if your spouse will handle the bill paying that you can walk away and be in the dark! Both of you need to be fully aware of ALL the bills and everything that is coming into the household and everything going out. On the flip side, be aware of a spouse who wants complete control and doesn’t want you to “worry about a thing.” There are many couples who end up in bad situations because one person keeps financial secrets from the other (and managed to do it because they handled and controlled all the bills).

-Talk about your financial philosophies. Marriage counselors will tell you not to marry someone expecting to change them. In addition, opposites may attract in many ways but when it comes to finances, that isn’t generally true. A married hardcore saver and hardcore spender will quickly realize that they’ve got serious issues.

-Financial goals. Talk about where both of you want to be, financially, in 10, 20 or 30 years. This can tie in with your financial philosophies as well. Talk about how you think you might accomplish those goals, too. Finding out that your spouse wants to retire early and thinks the best way to accomplish this is to never buy a house or have kids AND have you work two jobs might not sit well with you. Best you know this now!

In the end, it’s not impossible for two people with different views to come together and find common ground as far as finances are concerned. It can take compromise on both sides of the financial issues. One party can’t be forced or tricked into compromise either. If you feel that finances WILL be an issue then you should consider counseling or worse case, reconsider the marriage. The financial situation won’t be any better if you have to spend thousands dissolving a marriage.

About Tammy Paquin

Tammy Paquin is a work from home mom of 3 boys and wife to a great guy and the owner and publisher of Frugal-Families, a website devoted to frugality, budgeting, simple living, homesteading and helping everyone, families and singles alike, stretch their hard-earned dollars. She and her family live in New England and love hiking, camping, kayaking and gardening.

Image courtesy of SplitShire