Congratulations, you’re engaged! Soon you’ll be combining household items, insurance, families and—even finances. The words, “for richer or poorer,” will soon be your reality. It’s common for money and credit to be intimidating topics for recently married couples to discuss.
Money is a Personal Issue
Money is a basic necessity that creates security, but there are also opportunities for indulgent mistakes. How someone spends his or her money can say a lot about that person. Most people would prefer to share their weight or age before discussing their income.
Here are a few expert suggestions for navigating money matters with your significant other.
Find a Starting Point
As an engaged couple begins to plan for their wedding, they will discuss their budget, their vision for the day, and what the top priority is. The same can be said about a marriage financial strategy. As a team, you should discuss an estimated budget, financial goals, and your individual desires and needs for your new life together.
Marc Shaffer, a certified financial planner with more than 13 years of experience and the Principal at Searcy Financial in Kansas City suggests, “Set a time to discuss your ‘money script’ and the experiences you have had with money throughout life that impact how you feel about money today. Consider these discussion prompts: How did your family handle finances growing up? What worked well and what didn’t? How does that impact how you handle your own finances?”
Handling Your Credit
Another obstacle to creating a credit plan together can be discussing your joint credit, and what strategy will work best for your new marriage. It’s not uncommon for a newly engaged couple to open a joint credit card for upcoming wedding expenses. Is this a sound financial idea?
After all, you will soon be placing orders, making deposits, and purchasing travel tickets and lodging. These large-ticket items can quickly add up to big credit rewards and points with some credit cards.
Shaffer advises, “Before you get a credit card or even plan to use credit cards as a couple, make sure you are on the same page with credit and debt. Some people use credit cards to capture rewards, but pay it off in full immediately. You don’t want a situation where one person increases credit and the other is not comfortable with debt.”
Where to Start Your Credit Management Plan
As the relationship progressed, it’s likely you discussed dreams and goals for the future. Money conversations can be difficult discussions to have. No one wants to ruin a romantic dinner in a discussion about credit scores. However, discussing tough subjects, such as money, is an important step to building a strong foundation for your marriage.
Here’s a great way to break the ice, according to Shaffer. “You could bring up the fact that the three major credit bureaus let you pull your credit for free annually and suggest that you each get that done to see where you stand. You could also bring up the conversation when you receive a student loan bill or credit card bill in the mail,” says Shaffer. “It also helps to have a neutral party if you’re not comfortable bringing up this conversation.
Relationship experts tend to agree. Gottman’s M is for Money article noted, “On my imaginary list of ‘Top 5 Regrets from the First Year of Marriage’ I would have to include: Not meeting with—and listening to—a financial advisor.”
Financial support is probably easier to find than you realize. Some companies offer employee benefits with financial services and advisors to assist you with making decisions. Check local nonprofits for classes or webinars on money management. Financial firms have corporate blogs with expert advice on various topics. The key to a solid financial plan together is to have open communication as one unit early in the relationship, in hopes to avoid unpleasant surprises in the future.