While there certainly are pre-marital counseling resources out there regarding marriage and finances we wanted to bring you some guidance of our own. We felt it was an important topic to touch on since a lot of the pre-marital counseling resources available online are written from a religious perspective. Even some of the most popular personal finance programs and gurus out there approach personal and family finances from a religious perspective, attaching guilt and dogma to decisions that should be pragmatic and fact based.
We highly recommend finding a non-religious relationship counselor or family therapist who offers premarital counseling if you are able. If that is not an option, we hope that these resources can help prepare you for married life!
We decided to tackle marriage and finances first because frequent conflicts over finances are the top predictor of divorce among couples. Avoidance of or dishonesty about money issues is also a huge red flag and something that should be dealt with prior to marriage.
Approximately 31% of all couples — even the happiest ones — clash over their finances at least once a month. The most common points of disagreement: Major purchases, decisions about finances and children, a partner’s spending habits, important investment decisions.
Your Money Habits & History
When I met my husband, he had just graduated with a master’s degree and was living with a family friend. I was broke, in debt and living in a cheap apartment making just enough to live. We both had credit card debt, we both had school loans to pay off, but we had very different approaches to money and styles of money management. My husband is way better at saving than I am… he also wants to pay off his debt as soon as possible. I have never really cared about being in debt, and had a history of living a sort of “feast or famine” lifestyle that left little for rainy days.
So much has changed since he moved into that little apartment with me. We share some of our finances while also keeping separate accounts because we do still have slightly different money habits and values. I am far, far better at budgeting and saving than I used to be and have drastically improved my credit score.
Acknowledging that our backgrounds, saving & spending habits, and personal financial goals were different, we have created a system where our bills are paid, we are improving our financial situation, and trust each other to make good choices. We consult each other but also still retain a relatively high amount of financial freedom.
So how did we get here? Honest conversations about our money situations and values from the very start of our relationship.
Discussing Money with your Partner
These are the questions you need to be addressing, ideally well before your wedding, in order to improve the financial health of your relationship. A lot of these questions actually require you to dig deep into your own beliefs about money, spending, saving, debt, and your history with money.
Plan a time to discuss these issues, maybe a few at a time, when you can tackle them openly and honestly.
30 Questions to discuss about Marriage & Finances
- Do you consider yourself a spender, a saver, or somewhere in between?
- Do you prefer cash, debit, or credit cards for daily purchases, and why?
- Do you track your spending & accounts outside of looking at bank statements, if so, how and why?
- What are your monthly financial obligations, both shared and personal?
- Do you follow a budget (personal or shared with your partner) and what method of budgeting works best for you?
- What is your priority for expendable or extra income: material goods such as clothes, home goods, or tech; fun experiences like traveling, seeing friends, or going out to eat; paying down debt, or saving for the future? (rank in order of priority to you)
- What is a goal or thing that you successfully saved money toward in the past, how did you feel about it?
- Do you have a savings account?
- Do you have a retirement account started?
- What is your current debt and how manageable are the monthly payments and interest rates?
- How do you feel about the debt you carry – fine, indifferent, stressed, guilt, shame? (PS debt is not something you should ever feel ashamed of, so if you do, think about how you can get into a better head-space about it and manage it free of negative emotions.)
- How do you feel about talking about money in general, do you think it is something that should be talked about openly, kept private, or is not appropriate to talk about with others?
- Did you talk about money or finances with your family growing up?
- What was your family’s financial situation growing up, and how did that impact your childhood and more recently your own financial choices?
- How do you feel about the wage gap for women, persons of color, and other marginalized people? Do you believe income inequality currently impacts your relationship or could in the future?
- Do you have a shared 5 year plan for career and family related goals?
- If having children is in your future, how will you plan for the financial needs of starting a family? Will this impact either of your careers and how will you share the labor and financial requirements for the household?
- Would you rather rent or own your home? Have you evaluated the pros and cons for renting vs ownership in your desired locations?
- Do you know your credit scores and how they can impact future plans such as buying a home, car, or setting up utility accounts?
- Who is the current “breadwinner” and how do each of you feel about that? Do you feel any negativity or resentment around being a lesser earner (whether you are currently or not)?
- How can you structure your shared finances in an egalitarian fashion that accounts for income inequality (if present) and the emotional labor of each partner?
- Do you plan to join your finances completely, partially, or not at all?
- Do you prefer to keep separate “spending money” accounts?
- Do you plan to get a pre-nup agreement to detail financial arrangements in the case of divorce? (pre-nups are not always a bad thing like they are portrayed in movies!)
- Discuss what assets & investments you each currently have.
- Do you have insurance policies or a will that will need to be updated upon marriage?
- Do you have financial ties to former partners, such as child-support, alimony, or mortgage payments?
- Are there any major financial commitments that you as a couple need to plan for in the next 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years?
- Do you know the financial fitness and status of your parents and what their retirement plans are?
- Do you have a conflict resolution plan in case of disagreement over finances in the future? Discuss how you would like to discuss and approach sensitive topics so that when the arise you can do so with respect to each other and minimize conflict.
Share your thoughts on Marriage and Finances!
Please share in the comments if you have had these conversations and how they have impacted your relationship. Do you have any other tips for managing finances in your marriage? We would love to hear what works best for you and your partner! Or better yet, come chat with us in the Secularly Wed Community to connect with other non-religious folks planning their weddings!