Right now, money is the last thing on your mind. You are in love. You have found the one. And you are ready to say “I do.”
Without question, these are exciting times for you and your fiancé. Each day, you seem to learn more and more about the one you are marrying. The conversations go deeper than before. You are no longer talking about “me” or “you.” You are talking about “us.”
And while the conversations take many thrilling turns, the topic of money is often left out. Why ruin the mood?
Unfortunately, the lack of financial communication before marriage can lead to financial stress during marriage. So let’s consider how you create a financially stressful marriage before you even say “I do.”
1. Avoid talking about money with your fiancé.
Whether you want it to, money will be a big part of your future marriage. Money will guide many of your decisions. Consider all the decisions that money will infiltrate—the city where you live, the house you buy, the car you drive. And there are many, many more.
Postponing conversations about money is a great way to be caught off guard during your first few years of marriage. Avoiding money talks before marriage often leads to money arguments in your marriage. Right now is a great time to start discussing and working through money issues with your fiancé.
2. Don’t consider what it means to bring your finances together.
Right now, you have your account and your fiancé has his or her account. You can spend or save as you please. You are not concerned with what is in your fiancé’s account and he or she is not concerned with what is in your account.
When you get married, everything changes. Your spending or saving impacts your fiancé. “My” account becomes “our” account. It is “our” financial picture. Your spouse will care about the money decisions you make, and you will care about his or her money decisions. Couples who are not on the same page regarding what uniting finances means can experience significant tension in their future marriage.
3. Assume your fiancé’s perspective on money is the same as yours.
We all have our own experiences with money. Growing up, you may never have had to worry whether the bills would be paid. But your fiancé watched as his or her parents struggled to pay the electric bill. These experiences were a part of shaping you and your fiancé’s money personality.
Are you a Spender, Saver, Investor or Ignorer? What about your fiancé? Every money personality has its strengths and weaknesses, and most married couples have different money personalities. Knowing your fiancé’s money personality can create empathy. Not knowing your fiancé’s money personality can create stress and frustration.
4. Don’t concern yourself with your fiancé’s financial situation (and don’t tell your fiancé about your financial situation).
If you have credit card debt, statistics indicate it’s likely to be about $15,000. If you recently graduated from college, you probably have about $37,000 in student loan debt. And you probably don’t have much saved yet. Ready for some more encouragement? Your fiancé is probably in a similar financial situation.
Dropping the financial bombs after marriage can lead to frustration and distrust. The best thing you can do is discuss your financial situation prior to marriage. This way, you won’t feel misled, and your future spouse won’t feel duped.
5. Don’t consider your current financial picture when planning the wedding and honeymoon.
The expectation of what a wedding should look like has dramatically escalated. And so has the cost. Honeymoons are a great way to celebrate a marriage, but they can quickly become very expensive and the financial consequences can last years beyond the vacation.
Planning a wedding and honeymoon without regard for your current financial picture can start your marriage in a financial hole. You can spend the first few years of your marriage struggling to dig yourself out of debt created by just a few weeks of spending.
Grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and have a conversation about money with your future spouse. Consider what it means to bring your finances together. Seek to understand each other’s perspective on money. Share your financial situation and learn about your fiancé’s situation. And make sure your moment of celebration doesn’t lead to years of debt.
Art Rainer is the author of The Marriage Challenge, The Money Challenge and the forthcoming kids series The Secret Slide Money Club. He also hosts a growing podcast called The Money Challenge.