Money talks can be a little uncomfortable, especially for new couples. Research shows two-thirds of engaged couples have negative feelings about financial talks with their fiancé, according to a survey from National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
To help you overcome the discomfort of financial talks, here are three questions to ease into the conversation:
1. How will we merge our finances?
If you're newly married, you've probably already figured out things like housing, whose bedroom furniture is the best and how your cat and dog will survive under one roof. You've merged your belongings, but are you ready to merge your finances?
It's time to figure it out. Sit down and talk about whether you want to merge bank accounts or set up three accounts: Yours, Mine and Ours. If you choose the latter, define which expenses are "ours," and then decide how much money each of you will add to that account each month and when.
Everyone manages their finances a little differently, but you need to make a plan that takes care of your financial responsibilities together.
2. How much debt do we have, and how should we manage it?
Make a list of every debt you have, including long-term payments that have high balances, such as credit cards, car loans and student loans. It's important to get a clear picture of how much debt each person brings to the relationship.
If your soon-to-be-spouse has a six-figure debt from college expenses, that's important to know. Large student loan payments could limit your buying power in the future when you're ready to make big life changes like buying a house.
You'll need to figure out a plan to manage the debt. You might consider identifying the debt with the highest interest rate and paying that off first.
If you need help making a plan, a financial advisor can help provide more detailed direction.
3. How did your parents handle money?
Most adults take financial cues from their parents. If your parents were constantly strapped for cash, while your partner's parents took lavish trips to Europe twice a year, you will probably have very different ways of looking at finances and spending.
It's important to talk about how your parents managed money and examine the ways it shaped your financial choices. Share your experiences and set a goal to elevate your financial approach beyond that of your parents.
Sharing a life together means more than sharing a home and a Wi-Fi password. Marriage ties your financial lives together, and it's important to have open, honest conversations about money right from the start to ensure a happy, financially sound future.