You’ve finally reached the point in your relationship where you’re ready to spend the rest of your lives together. The question has been popped. The ring has been bought. The wedding plans are in full swing.
While it’s fun to plan for a wedding, it’s even more important to plan for a marriage. A wedding is only one day, but a marriage is for life. As you plan for your marriage, it’s important to recognize some of the threats that marriages face. One of the major causes of stress and conflict in marriage today is finances. Luckily, taking some time to be intentional about discussing finances before marriage can prevent a lot of the problems that couples face. When it comes to financial issues in marriage, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
Your Financial History
Getting to know your spouse is a never-ending process, as anyone who has been married for a while will tell you. However, there are some things that are important to know before you get married. Your financial history is one of them. While your financial failures and successes may be in the past, the consequences of them will likely follow you into the future. So your future spouse really needs to know.
Come clean about any mistakes you have made, especially if they have affected your credit. You don’t want your spouse finding out about your bankruptcy in the mortgage lender’s office. There’s hardly a financial mistake that can’t be recovered from or planned around, but you need to be forthcoming with your future spouse in order to do so.
Honesty and trust are foundational to any marriage and sharing these mistakes from the past can actually go a long way to building this trust.
Talking about past mistakes is never fun, but you need to do that so that you can move on to the next step, which really is a lot of fun: dreaming together. Now that you’re planning a future together, what do you want it to look like?
Start by discussing your own personal goals and career ambitions. What kind of future do you want to have? Then you can discuss how your individual goals can meld together. Chances are, you will have to make some compromises as you merge your goals and priorities. It’s good for you to start compromising now since you’ll have to do it a lot in marriage. Don’t think that’s a bad thing, though! Having a partner that pulls you away from your natural tendencies can make you stronger and more balanced in the long run.
Start by dreaming about the big picture: your career, your future family, your views on stewardship, how you envision your “golden years.” Then start to get more detailed and practical. You want to have kids, but how many? How will it affect your career, will someone become a stay-at-home parent? What do you expect to provide for your children, a private education or fully-funded college? What about your parents, do you expect to provide any kind of support for them in the future?
As you discuss your goals and expectations for the future, you will need to address opportunity costs. Everything you say yes to is a no to something else. Each dollar you spend today is a dollar that you do not save for the future. Likewise, each dollar you save is one that you could have spent today. Discuss how you will balance planning for the future and enjoying life today because both are important.
We started by asking you to revisit and disclose your past. Then you got to dream about your future. Now, we’re coming back to the present. How are the two of you going to manage your day-to-day finances?
While it is important for couples to make joint financial decisions and be in agreement, actual tasks are usually handled by only one person. Who is going to be paying the bills and managing cash flow? What will that person need to feel supported by the other? Discuss what your joint budget will look like and what system you will use to track your spending.
It is also important to discuss how you will structure your household finances. Will you combine everything? Will you each keep a separate bank account for fun money? Your views on debt and credit card usage may differ as well. Based on past history and training, one of you may have much stronger feelings on the matter. As you have these discussions, make sure that you take the time to listen to one another and truly try to understand where the other person is coming from and why they feel the way they do. How much risk each of you is comfortable with will affect everything from how your money is invested to the size of your emergency fund, so it is another important topic to tackle.
Now that the two of you are joining your lives and your finances together, it is good to have a written plan. Even if you had a financial plan as a single, things will change once you are married. At Guide Financial Planning, we create financial plans for couples without requiring an ongoing relationship. Consider letting us help you and your new spouse get on the same page with your finances and develop a plan for your future together as a family. To learn more, schedule your free introductory call today.
About Guide Financial Planning
Guide Financial Planning is led by founder Ben Wacek, who is a Christian fee-only Certified Financial Planner™ and Certified Kingdom Advisor®. He has a passion to help people of all income levels make wise financial decisions and steward their resources from an eternal perspective using Biblical principles. Based in Minneapolis, MN, he works with clients both locally and virtually throughout the country and abroad. You can follow the links to learn more about Guide Financial Planning and our team and the services we offer.