- Financial Advice, Financial Education, Marriage
- February 11, 2021
- FCU Team
You’ve found the one. Your heart soars at the thought of them and you can’t wait to spend the rest of your lives together. While we hate to spoil your daydream, it’s important to talk about money with your partner before any wedding bells ring!
According to a study by the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), financial problems were cited as one of the major contributing factors to divorce. While not the leading reason, 36.7% of divorced couples in the study did list it as an issue. If you’re struggling with figuring out where to start or just want to make sure you have all bases covered before tying the knot, here are a few things to consider:
Talk Income, Expenses and Savings
How much income do you have coming in every month, and how does it compare to your partner? What about assets like vehicles or property? Knowing will help inform financial decisions that may come down the road, like where to live, buying or renting, and knowing when and if you’ll be financially capable of starting a family.
Of course, what you have coming in is just as important as what you’ve got going out. As with your income and assets, you should calculate your monthly expenses to have a clear picture of your money situation. Talk to your partner and emphasize honesty! It’s like there’ll be differences in the way each of you spend, but that doesn’t have to mean you can’t create a workable financial plan!
Finally, if there’s money left over after covering expenses, where does it go? Savings are important, even if just for the surprises that life sometimes throws at us. Is your significant other prepared for such a possibility and are they saving money in general?
Talk About Your Debts
How much do each of you owe? You likely have some idea about the debts your partner may have but if you haven’t already, getting a specific number is imperative. Once you have your communal debts in order, are you both making an active effort to pay down debt beyond just the minimum due every month? It doesn’t matter if its credit card debt or student loans, paying extra each moth will pay off over time in the form interest you won’t have to pay.
Talk About Your Credit Scores
Picture a bicycle. If both wheels are operating properly and in good condition, pedaling and steering are a breeze. If even just one of you has bad credit (meaning a bad wheel), it could affect your ability to make important financial decisions, to steer the bicycle in the direction of opportunity. If you have plans to start a family and need to upgrade to a bigger vehicle or home, a poor credit score could result in a higher interest rate loan, or no financing in the first place. Check both your credit scores and see what condition your wheels are in!
A less than ideal credit score isn’t a death sentence for your relationship, however, just something you’ll need to keep an eye on and actively work to improve. Check out our blog on what credit scores are and what makes up your score.
Remember, as a member of the credit union, you’re entitled to a free credit report analysis. Call or stop by your local branch to take advantage of this free service!
Talk Mergers (Or Lack Thereof)
Will you open joint accounts, keep finances completely separate or do something in between? Deciding this before you get married is of utmost importance, especially since it’s likely you’ll receive a few checks on your wedding day from well-wishers. Not only that, but the process of opening accounts, linking them, and more can be a lengthy process you’ll want to get the ball rolling on before you get married.
Expectations are also important. If one spouse makes more than the other, how will you handle your expenses? Some couples split things 50/50 and each take equal responsibility for shared expenses like rent and groceries. Another approach is to go the percentage-based route, where each pays a relative percentage based on their income. For other couples, the partner with the higher income will take a more commanding role and pay a higher portion of expenses. Figuring this out early will save you headaches by ensuring you’re on the same page.
You may have to change strategies to adapt with different situations, such as if one of you wants to go to school or pay down debt as early as possible. The best thing to do is to remember that you’re on a team. Remember the bike!
Talk About Retirement and Life Insurance Plans
If you’re a younger couple, you may not have given retirement a thought yet. Knowing that one day both you and your spouse will retire, you’ll need to have enough money to ride out retirement life comfortably. For this reason, you should talk about retirement expectations and what comfortable living looks like. Some couples want to travel when they retire; others simply want to relax in the countryside. Whichever you choose, make plans to ensure you have the necessary funds!
You’ll also want to talk about life insurance. If you’re unsure about what life insurance is and whether or not you need it, check out our blog on the subject here.
Once you have it all out on the table, you have to organize things in a way that will make sense for both of you. It might take a few different iterations to get your finances just the way you both like, but it will be worth the effort in the end.
Talk About the Minor Things
We’ve discussed very big picture topics so far, but smaller financial matters can add up. For example, food can be a difficult topic to broach. Are you a couple that prefers going out over cooking? It may shock you, but the average Floridian actually spends $3,253 a year eating out!. For more information on budgeting when it comes to food, take a peek at our blog on the subject!
There’s also financial responsibility and openness. A fun game to play with your significant other is for each of you to take a piece of paper and a pen and write down the dollar value that you believe would necessitate running a purchase by them. This isn’t about controlling your partner’s choices, but instead affirming that you’ll be open with each other about financial matters!
Life changes on a dime. Kids, promotions and relocations can do a lot to alter your financial plans. For this reason, we recommend you update your financial plans at least once a year to make sure you’re on the right track. Communication has always been one of the most important keys to successful relationships. Financial matters are no different. Keep talking and planning and you’ll find your relationship will be as healthy as your finances.
Florida Credit Union is a full-service financial institution. Founded in 1954 as the Alachua County Teachers’ Credit Union, FCU now services over 119,000 members in 45 counties throughout North and Central Florida. For more information on the services we provide, visit FLCU.org or call us at 1-800-284-1144.