No one wants to think about marital discord when you’ve just had the wedding, but the truth is that anticipating areas where conflict might arise can actually help you avoid it. Finances remains one of the biggest topics that couples fight about, but in many cases, those fights are not inevitable. By talking about money early on and making some plans, you can lay the groundwork for healthy finances and a healthy relationship.
Clear the Air
Talking about money can be an uncomfortable experience for many people, but if this is the case, the first thing you need to do is normalize it. People often bring unspoken assumptions about money, often from their family of origin, into their new relationships, and it can be important to get those assumptions out in the open. You should also talk about your own financial situation if you have not already.
Saving Versus Spending
One common area of conflict involves disagreements over how much money should be saved versus how much should be spent. This is one reason for talking about family attitudes about money could be helpful. For example, one person may be concerned about spending recklessly because of a parent who did so, constantly leaving the family in a precarious situation financially. Another may be reacting to a parent who was very controlling about money and who never allowed splurges. Getting these concerns out in the open can help you both understand the underlying motivations of the other and reach a compromise. For example, one approach might be to agree on a joint account that each person contributes to expenses and savings. Each of you then has your own money that you can spend or save as you like.
This part of the conversation should include a discussion of current debt as well as anticipated future debt. It is common for both people to have student loan debt and to plan on eventually taking on debt to buy a home. You may also want to talk about paying for your children’s education as well. This could include a discussion of how you feel about cosigning for their student loans eventually, particularly if your parents will need some support as they get older. If one or both of you has a credit card or medical debt, you might want to make a plan for paying it off.
There are two different ways to talk about goals, and you should cover both of them. One is to talk about the kind of lifestyle you envision in general and how to support it financially. The other is to set specific goals, such as putting away money for retirement, planning to buy a home, purchasing a boat, starting a business, or further education for one or both of you. You might even want to consider a postnuptial agreement in some cases. While many people shy away from these types of documents, imagining that they mean creating a blueprint for divorce, writing one can actually bring any remaining issues out into the open where you can address them.