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The Money Discussions to Have Before You Get Married

Ask any married couple and they will tell you that being married is hard work. What makes it feel more difficult? Arguing about money.

Study after study shows that fighting about money is the number one topic couples cite during divorce. A Utah State University study in 2009 found that people who fought about money on a weekly basis were 30% more likely to divorce, as those whose money squabbles were more limited.

While no marriage is without problems, use these tips to take a deep-dive into money habits with your partner before you say, “I do.”

Your History with Money

We learn a lot about money from our parents—often more than we realize. The way our parents handled their money (or didn’t) will likely have an impact on all of us as we age. For example, if you or your future spouse grew up in a family under constant financial strain, the emotional scars will likely impact decision-making in your marriage.

Talk with your future spouse about their relationship with money. Does spending money give them a rush or make them feel guilty? Do they feel that a person’s physical possessions are an important measure of that individual’s worth, or not? Is getting the best price always the most important factor when making choices?

Understanding what makes your partner tick deep down inside will help you be more aware of how they might act in the future—and how you can respond to it.

Your Long-Term Goals and Plans

You and your partner likely have already spoken about your future together, but having the conversation again framed as a discussion about how money will benefit you in the long term. Does your future spouse want to open a business one day? Do they dream of traveling the world? Do they want a brood of babies, or no children at all? How do your plans and dreams fit into theirs?

Saving is challenging even when you have the same priorities, let alone different ones. Make sure you and your future spouse are on the same page about how you want to spend—and save—money.

Your Debt

We are conditioned from a young age that talking about money is rude, which often leads us to shy away from important discussions with even our closest friends and family. Not assessing your partner’s debt—or allowing that person to understand yours—is a decision that could end badly.

Sit down with your future spouse and go over debts, including student loans, credit card debts, and other loans. See where you will fall financially once you’re married. Assess your interest rates and work together to make a plan to pay down your debt once you’re living with two incomes.

Any red flags—substantial credit card debt, long-term money mismanagement, or a very low credit score—need to be addressed before your big day.

Taking the time to do this and be honest about your total debt picture will help you both make informed decisions for your family moving forward.

Your Shared Money (Or Not)

Most couples have to decide if they will combine their finances into a joint account after their wedding day. Jessica Grose, Slate contributor and author of the eBook, Home Economics: How Couples Manage Their Money, found that the longer a couple is married, the more likely they are to move from having completely separate accounts to combining money. Whether you choose to officially join financial forces, there are some things to consider.

Does the responsibility of combining accounts make you feel overwhelmed? Would you find another set of eyes on your bank account helpful…or a hindrance?

For couples who want to share, it’s an easy process to start if you are both already on solid financial ground. Conversely, separate accounts can protect your credit score if your betrothed has a significant level of debt, as credit scores reflect an individual’s history. According to debt.org, 70% of people in the U.S. enter marriage with debt, which consists mostly of credit cards and student loans. If you plan to purchase an expensive item together on credit in the future, a bad credit score or a significant debt load will impact your ability to borrow and the terms set. It helps to sit down with your partner and determine which choice is best for you.

Whether you’re newly engaged or about to head down the aisle in a few months, it’s never too early—or too late—to talk to your partner about your finances. Make sure you take the time now to find out the differences and similarities revolving around spending, saving and borrowing money. Having these tough discussions before your big day could help save you from arguments and heartache in the future.

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