Spring is coming and with it come thoughts of love and invitations to weddings! But while many soon-to-wed couples make sure they’re in agreement on where to live and how many kids to have, they often neglect to have that crucial money conversation. Yet, according to numerous studies of money and marriage, debt and disagreements about spending and saving are some of the biggest eroders of marital bliss.
So what should you and your soon-to-be-spouse know before you head down the aisle?
- Establish your attitudes toward spending and saving. Are you both live-for-now kind of people? Or are you a spender and a saver? If one of you wants great vacations and expensive cars while the other is more interested in robust IRAs, you should probably know that now. While you may differ in your opinions on handling money, at least you can enter your marriage with open eyes and realistic expectations.
- Share credit reports. As MSN Money’s Liz Weston says, your credit reports from all three reporting bureaus will show what you owe and how you’ve handled credit in the past. And past behavior is a pretty good indicator of future actions. Check carefully for red flags that may require frank discussion.
- Determine debt-tolerance. Debt can be truly corrosive when partners disagree. How much debt are you willing to take on? How will you pay it off? Will you get rid of your student loans and credit card debt before taking on a mortgage?
- Retirement readiness. No matter what your age, it’s never too soon to think about retirement. How much do you want to have banked when it’s time to retire? How much risk are you willing to take on in your investment portfolio? Even if your finances are separate, these decisions will affect both spouses, so a discussion now and an annual check-in will help keep the road to retirement smooth.
- Set up a budget and establish an emergency fund. Getting your agreements in writing now may help fend off friction later. Be open to reevaluating your budget at least annually or when life changes dictate it. And know yourselves—if one of you needs to splurge every now and again, then perhaps that one needs his or her own account earmarked for that purpose. Having an emergency fund and an agreement on what constitutes an “emergency” may help a more cautious partner feel comfortable about the family finances.
- Update your paperwork. Make sure your insurance, wills, 401(k) beneficiaries, etc. are all up-to-date and correct so your spouse and children are well taken care of in the event something happens to you. Nothing says “I love you” quite like well-ordered documentation!