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Talking About Money Before Marriage (DO IT!!!)

by J. Money on Thursday, June 17, 2010

money and marriageI got this email from zendough.com that said only one-fourth (24.2%) of survey respondents talked about finances, and created a budget, before getting married.  ONE FOURTH. That is NOT a lot of talkin’ going on!  What the hell is up with that?

How can you not talk about money?  Do you not talk about sex or kids either?  Or does “love conquer all?”  Okay, well I’ll agree on that last question but still – you know what I’m getting at here ;)

I just don’t see how money can NOT come up when you’re probably dropping $20k on the big wedding day alone. Not to mention the honeymoon, the place you’ll be living at together, etc etc.  All that stuff costs money, so unless you’re both filthy rich I don’t see how you can avoid discussing it (not saying that richies don’t need to discuss money – they do – but just that I can see how it may not make $ the top item to think about.  Then again, maybe they DO talk more about it due to prenup stuff?  Huh…that would be an interesting topic too :) )

Now, I’ll admit the wifey and I didn’t have a clear budget in mind before saying our vows, but we certainly talked about each of our financial situations.  She had no debt, wasn’t a credit card fiend, and she wanted to go to grad school in a year or two.  Me?  I was floating around in la la land spending money per my lifestyle but not enough to get me in trouble or in loads of debt.  And I also wanted to buy a Benz! Which to this day 4 years later I still think about, Haha…we also went over how much money we had, and where we had it.

But whether we were financially sound or not, we TALKED about it. Just like we talk about everything else that a boy and a girl (and a boy and a boy, and a girl and a girl) talk about in a committed relationship ;)  You have to COMMUNICATE. Which means all the happy lovey stuff that comes along with it, as well as all the $hit baggage we also bring to the table with heavy nervousness.  But if you’re hiding piles of debt, or any other crazy financial problems, you better talk about it soon and pray it doesn’t split you guys up!  Just like with cheating, you’re gonna get caught.  And money has a funny way of changing a person.

Damn, now I’m all fired up.  I hope this doesn’t come out too harsh though on those who are genuinely afraid of their money problems and thus holding back on alerting the other (as that’s the only thing I can think of as to WHY two people wouldn’t talk about it). I just want to stress how important it is to go over this stuff early on so that everyone can live a happy & passionate marriage :)  Which *always* comes out of trust & honesty!

All I ask is that if you’re about to get married, PLEASE take 2 minutes and ask yourself whether you’ve both gone over this stuff as yet. If the answer is no, take another 2 minutes and jot down a quick snapshot of your finances.  Do it on paper, in a draft email, whatever – just make sure that it sums up the financial YOU in a nutshell. Then, figure out a way to convey it to your future wife/husband ;)  And if you’re more comfortable emailing it to her, fine.  At least you’ve now opened up the discussion! You’ve got to talk about it sometime, so let that sometime be now.

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PS: A GREAT read (via Kiplinger): 4 Critical Money Questions to Ask Before You Get Married


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Red June 17, 2010 at 8:39 am

Right on. Mr. Red and I discussed both our financial selves before we tied the knot but even the tiniest details are frustrating once you’re married. For instance, we don’t agree on HOW to save. He wants to lump all our accounts into one giant account (the one with the highest interest rate) whereas I like to keep all funds separately so we know exactly how much we have saved toward our goals at any one minute. At least we both want to save, but I’m starting to wish we had beat this dead horse more before we married. I still would have said, “I do,” but having a cohesive plan right from the get-go would make things a little easier.

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2 Nicole at Breaking Even June 17, 2010 at 9:10 am

I talk about money with guys I date, which probably scared some off but the ones who will talk with me about it honestly I know are the kind of people I can work on being with long term. That 24% is quite a scary stat!

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3 jolie June 17, 2010 at 9:15 am

It’s been almost 19 years for us. We discussed nothing financial before we got married (man was I stupid). We discussed nothing about it during the first few years as we adopted a separate and divide up philosophy on bills. Now that I am finally understanding money, he doesn’t want to talk about it and is often quite derogatory about the whole budget idea.

Ahhh where is my time machine so I can go back and start afresh the proper way??????

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4 Mrs. Modern Tightwad June 17, 2010 at 10:23 am

That was one of the most dreadful, embarassing moments of my life, when I had to tell my future husband that I would bring debt into our marriage. I have never felt so small, when I told him about my student loan and my credit card. What was amazing was his response:
“Ok.”
“Ok? That’s it.”
“Yeah, I just wanted to know. As long as I know, I can work with it.”
“Ok.”
He didn’t make me feel bad for mistakes I wasn’t going to keep making. I appreciated that, and it made me want to marry him more.

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5 Everyday Tips June 17, 2010 at 10:36 am

My husband and I started dating in college, and he knew I was paying for school and would have debt. So, there was full disclosure from the beginning.

Also, before we got married, the Catholic Church required we go to a pre-marriage seminar. I thought it was going to be all about religion and such, but actually it was about money too, which I thought was great.

I think marriages have a much greater chance of succeeding when people are on the same page regarding spending and saving. Its too bad more people aren’t willing to broach the topic early on.

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6 Curt June 17, 2010 at 10:57 am

A good book I just read about this is ‘Financially Ever After’ by Jeff Opdyke

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7 Derek Sisterhen | Past Due Radio June 17, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Awesome and timely post, what with all the summer weddings.

You mentioned that less than 25% of engaged couples talk about money before the wedding day. Interestingly, Money magazine says 84% of married couples say the primary source of tension in their marriage is money. There isn’t even a close second.

Perhaps we get a little too focused on the big day rather than the “ever after”. I’m so excited to hear that Mrs. Modern Tightwad’s husband had a calm, collected, grace-filled conversation about money and that she felt no shame. That’s how new marriages can go deep in intimacy and unity even if there are debts to repay. Very cool!

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8 Miss Jane June 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Great post!

My fiancé and I always talk about money and savings (especially since I bought a house).

Money is so much more an intimate topic than sex, I think, and all couples need to talk money before getting married. Like others have said, the stresses of finances in a marriage can tear people apart.

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9 Melanie June 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I am not surprised at your statistic of 1/4 of coupled don’t talk about money before marriages – that is why there are so many divorces and money is the number one cause!

We got married 11 years ago and made sure that we talked about money and our plans for the future. We continue to talk about money every day… we don’t have any debt vecause we both agreed taht we didn’t want to build our life that way…now we are planning to retire in the next 10 years! all because we talked about money and agreed on what was important to both of us.

great post!

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10 J. Money June 17, 2010 at 4:17 pm

@Red – Haha… I hear ya on that one. Guess we just don’t know what’ll stick later until it does, eh? (but for what it’s worth, I’m on your side!)
@Impulse Magazine – Yep, true that.
@Nicole at Breaking Even – You would be an awesome first date :) And I’m not being sarcastic there – a girl who likes to talk about money? Sha-wing!
@jolie – Hey, at least you’re still together afte 19 years – that’s pretty impressive these days :) I hear ya though, us men can be pretty stubborn. Maybe you can pay him in “favors” if he starts budgeting? (ow ow!)
@Mrs. Modern Tightwad – Awwww that is so wonderful to hear!!!! Seriously, that is a MAN. Marriage is all about helping each other out and being on each other’s sides, and he’s got that covered :)
@Everyday Tips – Great point! I totally forgot the Mrs. and I did that couples retreat too w/ our Church (we’re also Catholic). And I remember there was a huge section dedicated to finances and how each of the couples handled them. And you want to hear something really funny? I STARTED THIS BLOG during that retreat!!! haha… I came up with “Budgets Are Sexy” right there in the hotel room :)
@Curt – Huh. Haven’t heard of it but like the title!
@Derek Sisterhen | Past Due Radio – I know, man, that 84% stat is freaky. Money comes in between sooooo many parts of our lives (our friends, family, decisions we make, careers, etc etc), you can really get into trouble if you don’t have a solid base to stick to. Is that what your radio show’s all about? “Past Due?” Pretty clever if it is :)
@Miss Jane – Amen sister. Buying a house will certainly do that to ya!
@Melanie – WOW!!! That is awesome! 10 years? Man….good for you guys. That is wonderful :)

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11 Mysti June 17, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I just blogged about this last night myself. We are 12 yrs into our marriage, and our financial stress is taking its toll.

http://diggingoutfromourmess.blogspot.com/2010/06/word-of-advice-to-you-youngins.html

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12 Suzanne June 18, 2010 at 7:24 am

I love your approach to topics such as this-the good, the bad, the ugly-you tell it like it is! I have written about communicating about your finances several times and know first hand the importance of taking this topic seriously! Great post!

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13 Kerry G. June 18, 2010 at 9:28 am

We each got our credit report, sat down, and explained everything to each other. Some people cringe at this, but it was nice knowing that we trusted each other enough to accept whatever it was we were about to see (we did this two years ago, and have been married for one). My husband had about $18k in debt (defaulted, etc). I don’t know if he would’ve told me exactly how bad it was unless we had done that (I like to think that he would :) Thankfully, we’ve dwindled that to about $3k, and will pay the rest off by the end of the summer.

If it wasn’t for our sit down, we would’ve never started planning on how to get rid of this, I’ll admit, because the hubby really didn’t know where to start (thankfully I consider myself financially savvy, so we worked our a plan). But it definitely took that sit down to identify it. I think all couples should do it!

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14 J. Money June 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

@Mysti – Hang in there!!! Keep on communicating :) Gonna go check out your post in a bit.
@Suzanne – Thanks!
@Kerry G. – Wow. That is certainly hardcore! haha…good for you guys though, you’re right who knows how it would have been brought up/dealed w/ out doing that from the beginning. Good for you guys, I’m not sure I would have gone for it ;)

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15 Donna Freedman June 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Just got done doing an interview for my next “Living With Less” column. Two people told me that they couldn’t talk to their spouses about money because it always led to a fight. One told me that she and her husband were in vastly different places about money (spender vs. penny-pincher) and it was the one thing they could never discuss even though debt was mounting.
Please, folks, have THE TALK before you say “I do”!

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16 J. Money June 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm

That is so sad :( And goes to show just how REAL this is.

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17 Aury (Thunderdrake) June 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Personally, I’m EXTREMELY selective with my love interests. One thing I shamefully admit is being single for a while, but conversely, I just don’t want to settle for someone who isn’t worth it.

I’d like to go the whole nine yards with financial matters before getting serious. Budgeting, real estate, investments, if she’s not interested… Then… That can put a big time dent on things!

So I gotta choose carefully. <.<

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18 J. Money June 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Say it loud and proud, girl!

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19 andrew July 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I am getting married in about 6 weeks, and we discussed finances. In fact, we set up a shared email, a shared mint.com account, added all of our bank accounts into one mint.com profile. Set up all the budgets that I had in my single Mint.com account. With the new “Goals” we are on our way to a down payment on a house and more.

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20 J. Money July 13, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Nice! Big fan of Mint myself. It’s nice to see the both of you on the same page like that :)

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21 Jmom August 11, 2012 at 11:18 am

I just want to say that I just came across your site, thru a link from elsewhere and so far I love it. And with regards to the money thing and marriage, it is so totally true. I was married almost 17yrs and a big part of our issues was money. I was a saver and he was a spender, every couple of weeks though, I’d print off a stmt of his account, my account and our account and go over it, he would always get defensive and angry when I’d point out what ‘we’ spent – moreso what he spent. I did our accuont in this chat so he didn’t think I was picking on him specifically (when really my focus is to bring to his attention his weekly/daily spending, but I wanted to be kind and respectful and not make it so I was picking on him). We did not, that I recall, talk about money before hand. I remember thinking though, he had quite a high visa limit before we got married and it bothered me a little because I don’t generally carry a balance on my card, but then I thought it would all be ok, we were in love and once we get married we’d have double income & could pay it off easier…..that, my friends, is a fantasy. With the double income, comes the double debt. So have that chat with your partner if you are committed to them, do not get defensice or angry, try to be on the same page, or atleast in the same book and work on it, it is a much bigger issue than many let on. AND one more thing, always sign some sort of a pre-nupt or marriage agreement if you are coming into the marriage with money, or with some investments of sorts, doesn’t even matter how much, you worked hard for that and even though we hate to think this way, but should the marriage not work out, you should be able to take with you what you brought into the marriage.

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22 J. Money August 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Thanks for dropping by my friend, glad you enjoy the site! :)

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