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Financial matters couples should discuss before saying ‘I do’

Honesty is key when it comes to talking about money before marriage, experts say

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Money tops the list as one of the leading causes of friction in a relationship. For some married couples, tension stemming from mismatched views about money can even lead to a divorce.

To keep financial disagreements from tearing apart an otherwise healthy relationship, experts say it’s imperative to have honest, regular talks about money before tying the knot. Setting aside time to find out if you share similar goals can help ensure that your marriage starts off on the right financial foot.

Developing joint goals

Recent research shows that couples who argue over finances several times a week are 30 percent more likely to divorce than those who only have arguments about money less than once a month. Younger couples are especially likely to divorce as a result of financial stress.

“So many people, especially in first marriages, never sit down and have a thorough and honest discussion about finances,” explained Christopher Krell, a certified financial planner and expert on personal and family finance.

To keep money-related squabbles from causing problems down the line, Krell says couples should talk through important financial topics before making a lifetime commitment. Figuring out where your partner stands financially is crucial to protecting your marriage from frequent financial disagreements. 

What to talk about

Here are a few tips for talking money before marriage:

  • Talk honestly and openly. Talking about money shouldn’t lead to a fight. In order to devise a game plan, it’s critical to have honest talks about money. To glean insight into your partner’s spending habits and behavior, consider asking a question like, "Would you say you’re more of a saver or spender? Why?" The answer to this question can be more telling than hearing how much money your partner has in their savings account.
  • Come up with a budget. If one person is a big spender and the other is an inherent saver, conflict can happen in the future. To keep these differences from causing tension later, get organized and come up with a plan for spending and saving. Be sure to factor in all of your assets, debts, and incomes.
  • Pay off debt. Krell suggests paying off any credit card debt that you have as quickly as possible. The debt of the person whose interest rate is highest should be chipped away at first, then work your way down to the least expensive interest rates.
  • Save for retirement. To help ensure you will be able to retire comfortably, start saving for retirement at the beginning of the marriage. How much and how long you save for retirement are more important than the rate of return on your investments, says Krell.
  • Set goals. Make a list of your short and long-term goals and have your partner do the same. Note the differences and similarities, then come together to write down your shared short and long-term goals. Make financial preparations to accomplish those goals.
  • Spend money on fun things. Take trips together and spend money on other fun things. “Life inevitably changes after children, so go goof off and do the things that will be more challenging once the blessing of children arrives,” Krell says.

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