Meet Andrew and Jen
Andrew and Jen have been together for five years. They know each other’s favorite food, least favorite color, how they like their coffee and they both know that Jen is not a morning person. They have names picked out for their future children, they have decided where they will live and already have plans for their retirement.
Now that they are getting married, their focus is on the perfect wedding day, what type of cake they will eat, what the seating arrangement will be and where they plan to go on their honeymoon.
Planning a wedding can be an overwhelming process – couples need to collaborate on decisions and sometimes they argue, but in the end they both jump get on the same page and have a fantastic day.
After years of knowing each other and planning the most important day of their life together Andrew and Jen are ready for marriage, right? Not entirely — they are missing one important step — discussing their finances.
As a couple, finances can be overwhelming
What are the repercussions of not discussing finances with your partner? According to a Kansas State University research project published in 2012, Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce, couples who argued about money early on in their relationship were at a greater risk for divorce.
We have learned that most couples feel overwhelmed by the topic of finances and most feel financial conversations just end in an argument so it remains ignored.
But — like it or not — money is a constant part of life. It determines where we live, what we eat, where our kids go to school and what jobs we take.
Discussing finances before getting married is one way to assure you and your partner are on the same page. Having open communication about finances will help prevent your marriage from becoming a statistic and ending in divorce because of money.
Here are some tips to starting a conversation about finances with your partner:
- Observe your partner’s spending behaviors and your own. Are the both of you thrifty or do you both tend to overspend? Maybe one of you likes to splurge while the other likes to save. By taking the time to see what type of spender you and your partner are, you can assess how your spending habits fit (or don’t fit) together.
- Begin your financial conversation in a collaborative manner, don’t drop a bomb and begin with “tell me why you spend your money the way you do.” This conversation is about discussing how to build your future together, it’s a team effort. Try starting the conversation like “I’ve been thinking about our financial future, are you ready to talk about it?” You don’t have to have the conversation right then and there. This is the beginning of a conversation that may not take place for some time, but it’s a good start.
- Remember these effective ways to communicate: don’t point your finger at your spouse, listen and don’t accuse, use “I feel” instead of “you” and speak in an understanding and non-judgmental way.
Not sure exactly what to talk about? Try discussing one of these subjects:
Debt: How much debt do you each of you have and how you plan to pay it off. In the future, will you both be paying off each other’s debt? Or will your debt remain separate? Everyone has a different answer. Try some of these conversation starters:
“Are you okay with living in debt?”
“Are you comfortable with your financial situation right now?”
“Do you have a timeline in mind for paying off your debt?”
Savings and assets: Will you both combine your savings and assets or keep them separate? What are some things that you both want to save for? What type of lifestyle do you both expect to live?
Financial styles: How was money handled when you were growing up? Were your parents thrifty or did they tend to spend beyond their means? What is your financial history? Do you pay bills as soon as you receive them? Do you balance the checkbook?
Give your marriage a jump-start for success
Discussing finances isn’t easy, but it’s an important and powerful choice for a couple to make.
For many, money is an afterthought, but it can lead to a great amount of tension down the road and is statistically proven to be a leading factor in divorce. The earlier you and your partner discuss your finances, the sooner you both can get on the same page.
Just like Andrew and Jen spent years getting to know each other and planning their wedding day, take time to learn how you and your spouse deal with finances, it will make a big difference in the success of your marriage and improve the overall communication in your relationship and life together.
Have you talked about finances with your partner yet?