8 Financial Topics to Discuss Before Marriage

young couple
You're getting married — congrats! Amidst all the conversations about venues and vows, something may be missing, or perhaps inadvertently has come up: a serious discussion about money. No two people handle money in the exact same way, and everyone has their own ideas on how it should be spent — and saved.

If you and your partner get married without understanding how the other views money, you can run into trouble down the road. So, let's get you on the same page. What are the financial questions to consider before getting married? Here are our suggestions for how to handle financial conversations before marriage. 

1. Discuss your financial background

To begin understanding your partner's ideas around money, one of the first financial topics to discuss is how you were raised. What were your respective family's beliefs about money? Were your parents penny-pinchers, while your partner's were wealthy business people? Did you learn how to save money as a child, or did your parents indulge your every monetary wish? When did you start working? Understanding each other's financial foundations is the first step to understanding money issues in marriage.

2. Debt and credit

When discussing finances in marriage, transparency about debt and credit is essential. The two of you should discuss any outstanding long-term debts before you're married, whether it's child support, school loans, or an auto loan. It's also good to be aware of your partner's credit score, especially if you have a credit rating of 830 and theirs is in the low 600s. That may impact your financial strategy when applying for a mortgage or other large loan. It's also the first step in raising the lower credit score to make future finances easier.

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3. Are children in the picture?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs an astounding $233,610 to raise a child to age 18 — not including college costs. Whether you already have children or you're planning to in the future, you should both be realistic in your expectations of how a child will impact your budget. Perhaps no element in your lives together will affect your marriage and finances as much as kids. It's crucial for you both to be on the same page in understanding the role children will play in your lives and your pocketbook.

4. Build a budget

Let's say you've had a discussion on money and marriage with your partner. You've both been open and discussed your past and present thinking on finances, and you know how and when you want to save and spend money as a married couple. Now's the time to build a budget. A budget is one of the most important things to discuss before getting married. 

Take a careful look at where your money goes each month, and look at any changes you'll be making after you marry. How much can you save? Who is responsible for each bill? Write it all down so you know what's expected of each of you going forward.

5. Plan for retirement

Retirement? I'm still in my twenties, you may be thinking. Exactly. It's the perfect time to plan for your retirement since money invested now will have decades to compound and increase. So, when discussing money issues in marriage, you should put saving for retirement on the front burner. 

Even if you can only put aside a small amount each month, that money could double or more by the time you retire. If your employer offers a match to your pension contributions, it's even more important to be saving — it's like getting free money, with no conditions.

6. Consider life insurance

What are some other things to discuss before marriage? Well, one is life insurance. Your spouse — and, perhaps, your future children — may depend on you financially. You may ask yourself, do I need life insurance? — that's a decision everyone must make on their own. 

Life insurance can protect your loved ones. Marriage, along with the birth of a child, are two of the most common times in your life when you should consider it. Even if you're not sure, you can get a free, no-commitment quote at Ethos Life for a policy that works in your circumstances.

7. Have a backup plan

Sometimes, life throws you a curveball. It may be a medical emergency, a lost job, or another situation that threatens to derail you. Prepare for it by making it one of the things to talk about before marriage. What will you do if you're suddenly faced with a financial loss?

If you can set aside money every month in a short-term investment vehicle, you'll be able to handle the bumps that will inevitably come down the road. Perhaps saving means eating out less or taking lunch to work with you. But it's worth it if you can save a few months' worth of expense money for when it's needed.

8. Know there's no right or wrong way to do your finances

How should money be handled in a marriage? It's up to you and your partner to decide. Perhaps you keep your accounts separate, or you're more comfortable pooling your resources. If one of you is a money maven, maybe they pay all the bills — or you agree to sit down once a week to do it together. 

There's no one right way to manage your money. What's more important is that you're transparent with each other and keep communicating regularly, so you're both on the same page. If you do that, you can be sure you're on the right path to successful money management as a married couple.

The information and content provided herein is for informational purposes only, and it is not to be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.

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