In just about any long-term relationship, finances will come into play, and in a marriage, it's essential to manage finances well together. Whether you're about to get married or have already tied the knot, it's a good idea to sit down with your partner and discuss money.
With finances, as with many things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you and your partner approach your finances in a direct, matter-of-fact way early in the marriage, you'll provide a solid foundation for your relationship, and for your finances, as time goes on.
When you sit down to talk with your fiancé or spouse, begin by sharing the current state of your finances. It's important to be frank and nonjudgmental. Fudging the numbers or concealing certain items from your partner could result in serious problems later. What's important is making sure your plan for going forward is one to which you are both committed. Here are some basics to go over:
Many of these questions are subject to the law of the state where you are getting married, and if you want to do something other than what the law provides, or make sure that you don't share certain property or that you're not responsible for your new spouse's premarriage debts, you may want to consider making a prenuptial agreement. To learn more, see Prenuptial Agreements-An Overview, and Prenuptial Agreements: How to Make a Fair & Lasting Contract, by Katherine E. Stoner and Shae Irving.
In your discussion of finances, it's worth discussing future costs, even if you can't know exactly what these will be. Do you plan on buying a house together? Having children? Taking a trip around the world? Moving? All of these things require significant financial investment. Be sure to discuss the following:
Sit down with your partner and make a budget. Start by listing the following.
Once you've made these lists, consider the following:
Whatever your financial situation, it's always better to be open and honest than to be unpleasantly surprised in a moment of stress or crisis. For more details on budgeting, read Nolo's article Budgeting: How to Make a Budget. For practical advice on planning your family's finances, see The Busy Family's Guide to Money, by Sandra Block, Kathy Chu and John Waggoner (Nolo).