Your fiancé and you have been talking and planning your wedding since the moment you got engaged. Money talks have occurred, but the focus was most likely on the cost of the Venue, DJ, photography, and so many other wedding costs. The most important conversations need to take place before you tie the knot. Having these 9 money talks before getting hitched will set-up for a successful marriage.
Bringing debt into a marriage is very common nowadays, especially amongst millennials. The first step is to be honest on how much you’re bringing into the marriage. How much student loan debt do you have? What debt are you carrying on credit cards? What does your car payment look like each month? Debt is something you want to make sure you discuss and make a plan how both of you will be able to pay it off. What’s yours is mine and mine is yours is true for debt as well.
When we got engaged we were 19 and still in college. Neither of us had a running balance on our credit cards and we held no immediate debt. The only debt we would eventually have was student loan debt. We talked about our total debt and put a plan in place to pay it off.
To share or not to share? That is the question. According to a 2004 study commissioned by SmartMoney magazine and Redbook, 64% of couples use joint accounts, 14% of couples have separate accounts, and 18% have joint and separate accounts. In our opinion, we suggest going with a joint account or a combination of separate/joint accounts. When having this money talk don’t be afraid to ask each other important questions. How much money will you earn together? Are your combined incomes enough to cover living expenses without dipping into credit card debt or savings? Do you trust each other enough to share accounts?
We fall under the 18% of couples that have both separate accounts and joint accounts. We both started side hustles from a young age. In order to keep our business expenses and personal expenses organized, it was just easier to keep them separate. This also makes it a lot easier to budget because neither or our business expenses are in our joint account. If we did not have our side hustles, we would only have our joint account.
This is an important money talk and could easily be looked over. What assets do we both have that we will be bringing together in the marriage? Does one of us have a house/condo/townhouse? How will the assets be divided or shared? If one person in the relationship has a house, will you move into that house? Will you add the other person on to the title of the home and make them an owner? Make sure you take the time to lay out everything you own and talk about where your money is located.
When we were engaged, we started the house hunting experience after Kelan landed a salary job with the sheriff’s department. The house would eventually be a combined asset when we became married. We both had used cars we bought with cash and our individual checking/saving accounts to discuss. Kelan also had a small investment account to bring to the table that he started in college.
You can easily track your assets and net worth using a company like Personal Capital.
If you do not have a house, but you plan on buying a house or starting in an apartment know what each other’s credit score is. You need to know what you are working with within the relationship. If one person has a low credit score, work as a team to increase it. In most circumstances, it will be better to use the person with a higher credit score for decisions involving living situations. A high credit score is a great “insurance” policy for lenders. This will enable you to receive the lowest interest rates around.
Kelan was able to build his credit score quicker than I. We used his income and credit score to get pre-approved for our mortgage. My income was slower coming in as a per diem substitute, we worked hard to build my credit score up.
Using only his income was actually a great tactic. Since we were only approved for an amount based on his salary, we bought a house well within our means. This is a tactic we might use again on our next house. Never buy more house than you need!
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Budgeting Money Talks
Who keeps the household books and pays the bills? What are your categories of expenses (housing, utilities, gas, food, phone, discretionary)? How much will you spend each month? Organize your finances and figure out your monthly cash flow.
Using Mint, budgeting is so easy. We are able to look at our monthly and yearly expenses in an instance. Kelan does most of our bills and finances because he went to school for business and has a great set-up for us. However, as the other half of The Savvy Couple, I take full part in knowing our finances and having open communication with them.
How much money will be spent on gifts and for whom? Birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, showers ect.? This money talk might not happen until after your married and have your first occasion to pay for. Planning ahead is key when it comes to budgeting.
An important category in your budget should be his and hers discretionary accounts. A monetary limit should be placed on both categories that are reasonable within the budget. This will help when you are married to keep the spending limit even. Some questions you will want to ask one another is what purchases will need to be made as a joint decision? How do we decide on how to spend our money? What monetary amount will need to be discussed prior to purchasing? All of these questions will be answered easily with a discretionary category.
Our discretionary amount has changed over the years of marriage. What we originally decided on has been altered as job changes occurred, unexpected expenses, and living more of a simple life. Some of the purchases I make with my discretionary money are coffee, clothing and teaching/classroom items. Kelan’s discretionary purchases include haircuts, going to the movies and Amazon purchases.
A normal rule of thumb we follow is anything over $50 we talk about before purchasing.
Talk about the short and long-term goals you want to have with your money as a couple. How much money should be in our savings account to feel safe? How much do we contribute to it and how often? Where do we put this money (savings, mutual funds, index funds, individual stocks)?
Kelan and I also fully believe the only money that should be collecting dust in a bank account is your emergency fund. You are leaving A LOT of money on the table by not having surplus money invested earning compound interest. We use Betterment to invest our surplus money into a “nest egg” account. This money on average should grow around 8% a year. Over our lifetime this will end up being tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in growth.
To keep track of our investments we use Personal Capital along with Mint. We have found personal capital is a much better tool in tracking investments over Mint. The great thing about both of these apps is they are 100% completely free.
If you are a young millennial engaged like we were, you might not need to rush into talking about insurance. Most insurance companies will cover you as a dependent until you are 26 years old. Stay on your parent’s insurance as long as you can and use the extra money you would put toward paying for insurance toward student loans or other debt. When it is time to get your own insurance ask each other: How will both of us be covered with health insurance? How will we pay co-pays and deductibles that will be paid out of pocket?
Not only do you have to think about the medical/health side of insurance, you have to think about other insurances as well. A must money talk will revolve around auto insurance, home owner insurance or renters insurance. These should be placed into your monthly budget as well.
Kelan and I both stayed on our parent’s insurance until we were 26, which helped out tremendously. When we both got salary jobs, we were able to discuss the above questions. We bundled our home and auto insurance together and were able to negotiate a lower monthly premium.
A money talk that is never too early to have is retirement, just like it is never too early to start saving for retirement. One way to start this money talk is to talk about how each of you sees yourself in retirement. How much money will you need to retire? What type of lifestyle will you need to uphold? Always be prepared for the future and whatever might be thrown your way.
What does long range financial planning look like? Who will be in charge of these accounts and keep track of them? Who are the beneficiaries and what types of investment accounts will need to be changed/updated after you are married? A lot of tough questions need time to talk and plan out with major decisions that impact your future.
Again, Kelan is in charge of our financial planning. We have talked in detail about our retirement and things we want to accomplish on our bucket list. The greatest asset you have when it comes to investing is time in the market. Don’t wait to start investing for your future.
Money Talks Summary
Money is a huge aspect that will encompass the majority of your marriage conversations. It is critical to have these 9 money talks before getting married. Not only do you want to get on the same page about money before tying the knot, but it will set the stage for a successful marriage.
Talking about money with your loved one should never be a topic that is intimidating or avoided. A successful marriage is a marriage that is open to all types of conversations. Go to your local library or coffee shop and start with one money talk at a time. Trying to talk about all of them will become overwhelming and not be talked about thoroughly like each topic deserves. Be open and be honest. Listen to one another actively as you start to plan your financial lives with one another.
The future together as a married couple is exciting! Get off on the right foot talk about money =)