There are all sorts of things you're supposed to discuss before you get married. Where do you want to live? How many kids do you want to have (if any)? Which holidays will you spend with one another's families? But the biggest — and hardest — topic to tackle might also be the most important: Money. It is by no means a romantic conversation, but practicing talking about finances now will make it easier for you to bring up the subject down the road. To help get the ball rolling, we talked to Paige Christenberry, Senior Vice President and Wealth Advisor for Regions Bank for a few tips on how to discuss money before you've tied the knot, and the topics you should definitely cover.
Talk About Your Current Financial Situations
Set the groundwork for the rest of your money talks by looping each other in on your current financial status. "Do either or both of you have debt? Is one of you willing or able to contribute more toward the down payment on your first house? These are questions to think about early on," says Christenberry. She also recommends reviewing your current monthly expenses and setting expectations for the future. "Figure out if you'll contribute different amounts, or if you'll split the bills down the middle," she explains.
Talk About Your Individual Money Styles
Avoid any surprises in the long run by figuring out how you each approach money. "Are you a spender or a saver? Are you a planner with long-term goals and a savings account to match, or do you just hope for the best? Oftentimes a marriage will have one spender and one saver in the couple, which is totally okay, but you want to both know what to expect so you can plan accordingly," Christenberry continues. Find a compromise between your styles, whether it's starting to contribute more to a savings account or learning to occasionally allow for unexpected purchases.
Decide Who Will Actually Pay the Bills
"Tempers can flare when a payment is late because one person thought the other paid the bills," says Christenberry. Avoid conflict in advance by clearly designating who is responsible for which payments. "This doesn't mean they're responsible for actually paying — you should decide between you how much you'll each contribute — but it means that mailing the check is a certain person's responsibility every month."
Discuss Future Financial Goals
"Whether it's paying off debt, buying a house, having children or even planning for retirement, start to think about what your goals are," says Christenberry. "Discuss and determine how you'll collaborate on these big expenses." She also recommends meeting with a wealth advisor to determine the best ways to save and invest to help you meet these goals.
Figure Out Which Assets You'll Keep Separate
There might be certain assets you'd prefer to keep in your own name and retain full ownership of, and that is completely fine. "For instance, if you receive an inheritance or a monetary gift while you're married, depositing it into your joint account will make it marital property in most states," says Christenberry. "The same is true if you deposit your paychecks into your joint checking account." If you'd prefer to keep some (or all) of your assets separate, decide that sooner rather than later. You can always still open a joint account that you both contribute to, and use that for household expenses and the like.