It’s always fun to discuss the excitement of your wedding plans, but what about the not-so-fun topics? Among these are your personal finances and how you plan to handle money matters as a couple.
Unfortunately, a survey of engaged couples by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that “68 percent of respondents held negative attitudes toward discussing money with their fiance, with 5 percent indicating the discussion would cause them to call off the wedding.”
That’s not good. Before you take a vow to share the rest of your life with a significant other, you should have the money talk to determine whether you’re on the same page — and if not, how to get there.
1. Share your philosophy about money
How do each of you feel about money? What are your thoughts on how financial affairs should be managed? You should also both disclose what you learned about money as a child so you can gain a better understanding of your respective views.
Perhaps you were raised by parents who were well-off and you routinely live every day as if you had the income to support the lifestyle of your youth. If you fit the bill, marrying a saver could result in conflict. How will you work this out?
If you’re having trouble breaking the ice, you could try a money quiz like this one on Motley Fool. You each privately answer the questions — then compare your answers at the end to tease out how you are alike and different. Here’s a taste of it:
1. You get $1,000 back as a tax refund. What would you spend it on? ____________ What would your partner spend it on? _______________
2. You view money as (circle one):
(a) A necessary evil.
(b) The path to happiness.
(c) Nice to have, but I won’t sweat over it.
(d) Hey, where’s my wallet?
The main thing is, get started on the conversation.
2. Chat about credit reports and scores
After you’re married, you will continue to have your own credit file, but you may also share joint accounts – like credit cards, car loans and a mortgage. If your partner has bad credit, that fact will negatively affect the interest rate you get on joint accounts.
Discuss why your credit scores are high or low, and how you can go about improving a bad credit score.
3. Disclose financial obligations
Is your money being spent in places that your partner is unaware of? Now’s the time to come clean and discuss all arrangements, such as charitable contributions to relatives, child support or alimony payments.
Other outstanding obligations, such as auto loans, student loans and credit card debt, should also be disclosed.
4. Make a plan to cut overlapping expenses and pay down debt
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling recommends that couples look for areas where they can cut overlapping expenses:
For example, most cellular phone companies offer family plans that can cut monthly phone costs, or see if joining the same gym can help to reduce monthly dues.
At the same time, make a plan to pay down both of your debts so you can establish the best credit possible for the day when you want to apply for a mortgage or car loan. Double down on your credit card payments to eliminate this expensive type of debt.
5. Set goals
Do you have a list of short-term, midrange or even long-term financial goals? Have you discussed them in detail with your mate? If not, put everything on the table and determine if you share common goals. At some point, you will need to establish such joint goals.
If you’re going to spend the rest of your life together, why not learn how to manage your money as a unit? Does one of you wing it while the other sits down each month and creates a detailed spending plan?
There’s no way around it: A budget is an absolute must, or you may find yourself coming up short month after month – or, even worse, find yourself with a mountain of debt.
Need a little help? Planning an affordable wedding is a great way to get started. After all, do you really want to spend the next five or 10 years paying off all those costs attached to the big day?