How to Talk About Money Before Tying the Knot
Chatting about money before walking down the aisle could help put you two on the path to financial success.
Couples who plan to get married have a lot of conversations about the wedding day itself: who’s going to be in the wedding party, buffet or plated dinner, and where are you going on your honeymoon?
But some of the most important conversations to have before walking down the aisle are about your finances and financial planning.
A 2023 Bread Financial study revealed that 64% of couples admit to being financially incompatible and 44% wish they had more similar financial mindsets to their partners.1
Just as you determined your compatibility in love, you should do the same with your finances.
Let’s look at some of the crucial money conversations you and your partner might want to have about money before you get married. We’ll also give you a simple four-step plan for navigating how to talk about finances before marriage.
Get to know your partner’s financial situation, goals, and spending habits.
Explore your options for managing money as a couple, such as joint or separate bank accounts and different budgeting options.
Identify major purchases and milestones, create a timeline, and build a budget that supports both of your financial goals.
Financial Planning Before Marriage: Why You Need to Talk About Money
There are lots of things to discuss before your wedding day, and it’s easy to put finances off until later, especially since money conversations may be tough to have if you aren’t sure how to approach the topic.
However, finances deserve a top spot on your discussion checklist to help establish a healthy and happy relationship.
Here are some ways discussing money before marriage could improve your relationship:
Reduce Stress: Openly talking about money may help you understand each other’s financial situations and create a plan to manage money as a team.
Help Achieve Goals: Whether it's buying a house, having kids, or planning for retirement, knowing each other's goals and working toward them together may strengthen your relationship.
Create a Habit: Establish a habit of discussing finances before getting married and continue it after you tie the knot. Married couples who discuss their money regularly tend to rate their household’s financial health as very good or excellent, according to a 2021 Fidelity Investments Survey.2
At Jenius Bank, we spend a lot of time researching and thinking about financial wellness. So we thought, why not ask our team about relationships and money? It turns out they had a lot to say! Everyone agreed: talking about finances before marriage is definitely a good idea.
“In my first marriage, we didn’t have any financial discussions prior to getting married, and I think we could probably both agree that contributed to some of the issues that ultimately led to our divorce,” says Alison, a Jenius Bank team member.
“In my new relationship, we’re trying to do things differently. I can’t say we’re fully aligned yet, but we are committed to continuing the dialogue to drive better alignment.”
Step 1: Talk About Your Individual Finances
You may not want to dive straight into a discussion on combining finances. Instead, start by taking some time to get caught up on each other’s current financial situation.
Some questions you may want to tackle include:
How much money do you make, such as salaries or investments?
How much debt do you have, such as mortgages, car loans, student loans, or credit cards?
What are your current financial obligations, such as bills, alimony, or child support payments?
Do you have any investment accounts, such as retirement accounts or stock portfolios?
What is your credit history like?
Have you ever declared bankruptcy? (Did you know bankruptcy filings can remain on your credit report for 7-10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy declared?)3
As you are going through these questions, it may be useful to have a copy of your credit reports on hand. Not only could these reports help you get to know your partner’s finances, but you may also catch errors that are impacting each of your credit scores.
Does that feel a little uncomfortable to be so detailed? No doubt. But remember that when you become legally married, in most states, you also become legally responsible for each others’ debts. And your partner’s credit will impact your ability to get loans and build wealth in the future. So, working together to build strong credit could be important to your financial wellness as a couple.
Step 2: Discuss Your Money Values
In addition to understanding what assets and debts each of you are bringing into your marriage, it’s important to discuss your money values. Just like each of you has a unique personality, you also have unique financial values and preferences.
Some questions you may want to ask each other include:
What is your money mindset? Do you like assigning a category to every dollar? Is money meant to be spent on experiences or set aside for security? Understanding how each of you views money could help inform how you set up your budget.
How do you handle financial emergencies? Do you want to have insurance coverage for various contingencies? Aligning on these decisions before an emergency occurs may help reduce stress in the moment.
How do you like to budget? Do you both enjoy keeping track of money? Would you rather use a spreadsheet or have an app? Agreeing on a budgeting method could prevent overspending (and disagreements) down the road.
It’s important to communicate openly and honestly about your individual approaches to money management to build a strong financial foundation for your future together.
Step 3: Explore Long-Term Money Goals
You’ve talked about where your finances stand and your feelings toward money. Now it’s time to discuss your joint future and goals.
Some of these goals might be:
Do you want to buy a house?
Do you want to have children?
Do you want to retire by a certain age?
Do you want to travel often?
Do you want to start your own business?
It’s great to dream big but build those dreams together to help avoid conflicts about spending. Our Jenius Bank team agrees:
“Discuss in advance what are realistic purchases with your finances,” says Erinn, a member of Jenius Bank’s Legal Team. “This way you don’t end up having to argue over why buying a yacht isn’t in the budget.”
Beyond deciding which of these goals you want to achieve, agree on a timeline for achieving them. This way you can add these goals into your budget and work together to reach them.
Step 4: Determine Your Merging Philosophy
Now that you’ve got a handle on your current finances and your future goals, you can begin discussing what a merged financial journey will look like.
When it comes to merging your finances, there are a few questions you may want to discuss, including:
How will we split expenses? – You may choose to each cover specific expenses or combine your money and have a joint account that you use to pay all the bills.
How will we budget our money? – Creating a joint budget may help you handle your expenses and create a plan to achieve your future goals together.
How will we manage our assets? – If one or both of you come into your marriage with assets, such as a car or home, discuss whether you plan to add the other person as a co-owner. If you are the type to plan for all scenarios, you could discuss how these assets and joint purchases would be allocated in the event of a divorce (not the desired outcome of course!) – a prenup may be a useful tool. Quick tip: check how your state defines ownership of assets for married couples, as each state has different definitions of ownership.
Keep our debt separate or make it joint? – Did you know 7 in 10 adults enter marriage with some form of debt?4 If you’re bringing debt into your marriage, be sure to talk about plans for paying it off.
Merging your finances doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing scenario, but it’s important to have these conversations early on to help avoid potential conflict down the road.
Joining Bank Accounts
Merging money looks different for every couple, and you should choose a system that works best for you. A 2022 APA study found that couples who pool their finances tend to feel more satisfied in their relationships.5
That said, there are different ways to formally combine your finances once you’re married. While you may have several types of accounts to consider, the most common ones you will talk about merging are your bank accounts.
There are three main approaches people take when it comes to combining bank accounts:
Both partners put money into one bank account and use it to pay bills.
Convenient for paying bills and tracking spending.
Lack of privacy. In the event of separation, may be difficult to untangle what money belongs to whom.
Partially Combined/Partially Separate
Each partner has their own bank account as well as a shared account.
Allows each partner to still have autonomy. Easier to budget for joint expenses.
Requires planning upfront to determine how much each person will contribute to the joint account.
Each partner has their own bank account.
Allows each person full autonomy over their money.
Ongoing effort to make sure expenses and savings are split equitably.
While each approach has its pros and cons, it’s up to you and your partner to decide what will work best for you.
For example, some couples may choose to maintain separate bank accounts because they have vastly different spending habits and having a joint account could cause additional stress. On the other hand, some couples may prefer to have all their money in one place so it’s easier to keep track of.
For one Jenius Bank team member:
“We talked about being super transparent with each other about our finances and that we’d be fully invested in the ‘all of the money is our money’ approach,” says Dan, another Jenius Bank team member. “Eighteen years later, it’s still the same!”
Bottom line, while each approach has its pros and cons, it’s up to you and your partner to decide what will work best for you.
When it comes to marriage and money, it's important to have an open line of communication and be honest with each other. Discussing money can be hard, but the payoff will be there when your financial goals are aligned for a long and happy married life.