There is a post on Reddit that boggled my mind. A wife was concerned that her husband wanted to know about her finances. Maybe I’m assuming too much, but I thought couples discussed finances before marriage. If that’s not the norm, I believe it should be.
Let me start by admitting I am unmarried. Additionally, I regularly write about personal finance, so I probably talk about money more than the average adult. However, I don’t think I’m in the minority when I say you should know what you’re marrying into, financially included. Integrating lives with your partner involves combining your finances as well as the other aspects of life. It is not generally a comfortable conversation, but it is necessary.
Potential Finance Topics
If you’re not financially savvy or carry a large amount of debt, the thought can be daunting. If you are incredibly wealthy, you may want to keep that information away from a thief. However, if you’re seriously planning to get married or are already married, you can’t avoid talking numbers. Here are a few topics to consider: financial goals, net worth, credit score, assets, debt, retirement, and giving.
Money Issues Lead to Divorce?
Business Insider lists mismatched priorities as one of the main reasons couples divorce. Establish your baseline before discussing finances with your partner or spouse. You always need to know your financial position, such as your net worth and your goals. Encourage your partner to do the same. As you pay down debt or accrue more assets, update your net worth using a spreadsheet or an app like Personal Capital. Make sure you’re both agree on the direction your finances are heading.
If you are currently in debt or have a habit of getting into debt, your partner should know. Depending on the state, they may be responsible for any liability created while you’re married. Hiding that information can create more significant problems. A survey showed that money is about 25 percent of the reason for divorce. If the income is over six figures, then that number increases to 33 percent.
One topic I don’t see a lot when I read about relationships and money is giving. Do you already, or plan to, pay your parents or siblings’ expenses regularly? Are you active in your church and plan to give 10 percent of your income every two weeks? How does your significant feel about that? Have you discussed it? Giving can be a huge sacrifice that only some are willing to make. When it becomes a combined decision, compromise should occur.
One at a Time
Designate a time to sit and discuss your finances. Ensure you are in a quiet, relaxed environment conducive to thoughtful communication. You don’t have to address all of the topics at one time. Maybe you have a deep-dive of each one spread out over time.
Perhaps you wait to have this conversation until you’re engaged or in pre-marital counseling. Maybe you’re like me and ask about credit scores before your entree on the first date. Whenever you decide to have the conversation, it may help to do so before you’re legally bound to one another. If you want to protect yourself, a prenuptial agreement is always an option.
Flanice Lewis is a DC-based financial literacy advocate, blogger, traveler and breast cancer survivor. In addition to having bought her first house at 23, she is a graduate of Howard University and The University of Virginia. You can follow her on Instagram or read her work here on critical financial.