The Pre-Altar Money Conversation Every Couple Needs To Have
Every once in a while, I’ll stumble on an article that catches my eye where I feel like I have to stop what I’m doing, and give it a read. Since I’m getting married in a few days (!), this article on TIME called The Most Important Talk You Need to Have Before Marriage, really stood out to me. It was written by Farnoosh Torabi, author of the book When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. As I read through the article, I breathed a sigh of relief because luckily, I’ve followed the steps that Torabi lays out. (And, with such a short lead time until the day of our nuptials, I was going to be shit out of luck if I hadn’t.) Torabi explains that having the money talk is of tantamount importance for couples that approach the “serious” benchmark.
For anyone in a seriously committed relationship, where planning out a future together is a reality, it’s easy to see why financial transparency is a necessary step to getting to know someone intimately. That being said, it’s utterly shocking to read how many couples forgo the candid money conversation and are therefore in the dark about their partner’s financial standing. Torabi talks about the statistic briefly saying,
Many of us shy away from asking our partners key questions related to savings, investments, debt and credit. More than 40% of couples surveyed by Country Financial recently said they didn’t discuss how they’d manage their money together ahead of tying the knot.
Over 40% is a high number. Considering the divorce rate in this country, and the fact that money is the most common thing people fight about, I couldn’t believe the statistic when I first read it.
The truth is, money affects nearly every aspect of life. If you’re making plans to be with your significant other for the long term, it’s essential to be able to answer basic facts like your partner’s rough credit score, credit history, spending habits, loans, assets, etc.
Now, saying you should do something and actually doing it are two totally different things. It’s much easier to check off this type of conversation when you have a firm plan of action in place to get it done. In my case, the money conversation happened naturally because I’ve been with my partner for a long time. We know a great deal about one another’s financial lives because we’ve lived together for the last six months. (Also, there’s little that wedding planning leaves to the imagination because one’s finances are laid completely bare during the process.) I also went through leasing a car about three years ago. This transaction put my credit score on blast, and it forced me to calculate the monthly payments I could afford, right in front of him. That being said, candid money talk didn’t always come naturally, and there have been many times when we had to force ourselves to sit down and talk about a specific topic — namely, student loans.
My fiancé has significant student loans that are currently in the five figures, and it’s an aspect of our collective financial situation we can’t afford to ignore. Together, we’ve had to create a concrete repayment plan and dissect how those monthly payments will affect our future financial goals. In the article, Torabi explains a few strategies for making money conversations easier. She urges that we make these conversations an “even exchange of information,” and that we “ease gently into the interrogation.” In my opinion, the process shouldn’t feel like a job interview, it should feel, dare I say, enjoyable. Think of it as an important and exciting milestone that represents a turning point in the relationship. You want to speak to one another with respect and as equals — never accuse the other, or act defensively. If someone is coming from a place where they feel like they’re being spoken down to, it can be extraordinary hurtful. Money is already a sensitive topic, and you want to make sure you’re both focusing on facts and numbers first and foremost.
When you make money a true conversation and not a situation where one person ends up feeling ashamed about the state of their finances, the couple can move forward together and productively. To make it easier, Norabi suggests asking softer questions to help talk through the big financial milestones in your lives. She says,
Go down memory lane together to ease into your credit technicals. Talk about how you might have signed up for your first card in college just to score that free t-shirt. And admit a personal rookie misstep you might have made with said credit card.
Using this tactic might even help you understand your own financial behavior and contextualize some of the past decisions you’ve made. Noone’s financial history is going to be perfect, and everyone will have their own version of a financial “screw up” or “baggage” they bring to the table. The most important thing for seriously committed couples is that they enter into long-term relationships with their eyes wide open. You want to be as lucid of each other’s financial standing as possible because it means you can create meaningful and realistic dreams, together. That is the most special milestone of all, and only once you’ve reached it can you say (and truly mean) your “I do’s.”
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