Your Partner's Finances: 5 Important Conversations to Have Before You Get Serious

By Myles Leva

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Last Updated: August 31, 2022

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Are your partner’s finances important to you?

If you’re planning on getting serious with a partner anytime soon, you will have to level with them in many areas. Common values or the lack thereof can make or break a long-term relationship. Among the values that need to be discussed, finances are at the top of the list.

When it comes to money and relationships, common values imply a common understanding of how money should be used. This is significant, as a mismatch can lead to endless fights over the financial future of a marriage.

In this article, we will go over:

  • How important money is for a marriage
  • Financial stability
  • How financial problems can threaten a relationship
  • The 5 conversations you should have before getting serious

 

Is Money Important for Marriage?

Yes.

In fact, marriage is essentially little more than an economic contract. Of course, you could just stay in a relationship with your partner without signing any legal documents. But when you’re both living together and married to each other, there are several legal implications.

At this point, it’s important to separate what really changes after marriage. After all, some things such as your credit score will remain unchanged by your marital status. But the issues we will cover below do.

Remember, finances play a massive role in everyone’s life. It naturally follows that finances will similarly affect the lives of a married couple. That’s true even before you consider legal and tax implications.

 

 

Should You Be Financially Stable Before Marriage?

For the most part, yes.

The foundation of any meaningful interpersonal relationship is trust. Between a married couple, trust regarding finances is incredibly important.

So, the answer to this is first that both partners must be open to discussing the good, bad, and ugly of their respective finances. That means being honest about:

  • Financial habits
  • Credit
  • Existing debts
  • Debts that are expected to be incurred during the marriage

One partner may assume that their debt is irrelevant, as it’s their own business to handle. But in most cases, especially if children are to be involved, the lines between each partner’s personal finances begin to blur.

Not being open about any particular area of personal finances can lead to disastrous results down the line. Openness on these matters is the only way to avoid surprises and disappointments that would inevitably come to bear otherwise.

After honesty, personal financial stability is also important, albeit less so.

If, for example, both partners are completely open about their financial situations, but one or both of their situations are not great, there may be space to work around it.

Depending on the individual partners, even some issues such as heavy debt burdens can be worked around with a budget. In cases where heavy debt burdens are a deal-breaker, being honest at least helps both parties avoid a disastrous end to the marriage down the line, with worse consequences.

 

 

How Can Financial Problems Affect a Marriage?

Financial problems are quite likely to damage or even ruin a marriage.

The three biggest issues, which differ in order and severity depending on where you find the information, are:

  • Bringing debt into a marriage
  • Job loss
  • Poor credit

Any one of these issues can destabilize a marriage. Financial problems are the fifth leading cause of divorce, following serious issues such as lack of commitment, infidelity, arguing, and marrying too young.

 

 

5 Financial Conversations for Couples

Here are 5 of the most important aspects of each partner’s finances that should be discussed.

 

1. Marital property issues

This is normally more important the more unbalanced the relationship is in this area.

In cases where one partner has vastly more assets than the other, it’ll be an area that must be discussed.

In these cases, it’s important to discuss the future of assets, such as property, and the need for a prenuptial agreement, wherever it is justified.

Investment is another area that deserves attention.

 

2. Wedding budgets

Wedding costs can be very high. The average cost of a wedding in 2021 was $28,000 nationwide.

Of course, weddings can be far less expensive than that, and the average in 2020 during the pandemic was $19,000.

Regardless, if you’re thinking about “getting serious” this is one of the most significant factors in your immediate financial future. So, while it isn’t very romantic to do so, discussing the financial rules for your wedding is important.

 

3. Credit

This is one area where each partner will receive the consequences of their partner’s past.

If you are going to combine your financial accounts, review each other’s credit scores and credit reports together.

This information will affect your ability to qualify and receive reasonable rates for car loans, mortgages, and credit cards. Joint accounts take in the credit scores of both parties.

So, it’s worth it to know what to expect when it comes to credit with shared accounts. This also opens the door to discussions about how to improve your partner’s finances by working to increase their score.

 

4. Taxes

Will you want to update your tax filing information?

There are a few chores and decisions involved with tying the knot. First, decide together whether filing jointly makes sense for you both. ‘Married filing separately’ or ‘married filing jointly’ are your options.

Filing jointly means filing a single tax return for the two of you. You share income and deductions, benefiting from some advantages one of the partners may not normally have. Tax rates are also less expensive if you file jointly.

 

5. Day-to-day financial values

You will want to be on the same page as your partner when it comes to values.

This is a whole conversation on its own, where you would dig for the answers to questions like:

  • What are your top financial priorities in life?
  • What are your long-term work goals?
  • Will we need to work around any financial challenges such as debts, or a new loan to go back to school?
  • If we are having children, what are we going to have to change to accommodate them?
  • Is either of us bringing financial commitments into the relationship?
  • How much do you normally set aside for entertainment/fun?
  • Do we have similar attitudes towards spending, saving, and investing?

 

 

Conclusions

Your partner’s finances will always end up affecting your life, and vice versa. So, it makes sense to take the time to discuss the most important financial topics, as early as you can.

Financial stability and a common financial understanding are key areas of a stable marriage.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

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2 comments on “Your Partner's Finances: 5 Important Conversations to Have Before You Get Serious”

  1. Excellent article.
    I am a 72 year old divorced female and wish I had this knowledge and understanding as a young person. In my day, money was never discussed and the " husband" took care of everything. I woke up when I was 45 years old and started reading every book on finances and haven't stopped. My hope is to pass on advice and information to my Grandchildren. Thank you, Nina F. Williams/ Texas

    1. It's never too late to learn Nina, and good for you to take control of your finances. I'm sure things would have looked different 30 years ago as you say, but better late than never!! And you're right, your wisdom will be so helpful for everyone else you give it to early on in their lives. Very inspiring!

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