Most people would probably agree that talking about money can be a romance killer. However, trying to build a life together while avoiding talk of financial matters is like trying to speak the language of love without the use of nouns and verbs. It may seem silly and fun at first, but eventually it will cause a breakdown in communication.
It’s important for couples to be open with each other about financial matters like savings, spending, managing debt and credit use. After all, money problems are often cited as one of the leading causes of divorce, and poor communication can make any problem even worse.
May and June are wedding season, so it seems like a good time to offer some money advice for newlyweds on how to get started communicating about finances.
Step 1 – Air your laundry, no matter how dirty.
It may be true that honesty is always the best policy, but it’s not always the easiest to follow. If you’re less than proud of your financial history – whether it’s because you’ve got a lot of debt or even had a bankruptcy– you may be tempted to keep your indiscretions from your future spouse. You’ll both retain separate credit scores after you’re married, your financial health and history will become linked on joint accounts. Your spouse will appreciate your honesty and be better equipped to co-manage your financial future together if he or she knows up front about any challenges you may face together.
Step 2 – Practice full disclosure.
Open a bottle of wine, make a nice dinner, sit down together in front of a romantic fire and review your financial statements, tax returns and credit reports together. Being married means sharing every aspect of who you are with each other, including how much money you make and how much you like to spend.
Step 3 – Set financial goals together.
Discuss what each of you wants long term for your financial future. Do you have debt that you would like to pay off? Do you want to save money for a down payment on a house? Save toward an early retirement? It’s important for married couples to align their financial goals so that they’re working together toward achieving those objectives. You may find you have individual goals as well as common ones, so it’s important to be on the same page about your priorities and how you’ll achieve them.
Going forward, newlyweds should always keep in mind why they work, save and budget – so that they can make their money work for them. While money is essential for survival, it’s still just a tool. Successful couples learn how to cooperate to use that tool to make their lives together even more fulfilling.