Planning a wedding is exciting. Planning your financial life together can be, too. That said, how do you have comfortable, stress-and-fuss-free conversations about finances with your partner? Below are discussion tips and topics to get you started.
- Plan the next 3-5 years. It’s easier to talk about and plan for money you haven’t received than money that already exists. Sit with your partner and list 3-5 things you would like to achieve within the next five years. Then calculate how much you and your partner will earn in the next five years, assuming no raises/promotions and how much you would earn if one partner were earning minimum wage while the other was earning his/her regular salary. No matter how you do the calculation, it’s a decent amount of money. How can you make the money support your 3-5 year goals?
- Discuss your longer-term wealth-building plan. Beyond the first 5 years of your union, what combination of assets do you envision owning (e.g., stocks, rental property, businesses)? What do you have to do today, as a couple, to reach those goals?
- Create a basic budget. A basic budget covers 5-10 necessities like housing, basic transportation to work (public), basic communication (inexpensive cell phone), utilities, food, healthcare, childcare, etc. Agree on the minimum amount of money you’ll need to make your household run and decide how much each partner will contribute to ensure the basic expenses are covered.
- Discuss debt and other demands on your money. How much debt do you have? Do you have any other demands on your money (e.g., alimony, child support, IRS judgments)? What are your credit scores? Avoid being judgmental about your partner’s financial situation, however, explore options to protect yourself if your partner has high debt and/or a low credit score.
- Discuss areas where you will and won’t merge your lifestyles. If either one of you earns much more than the other, you may also have lifestyle differences. If you are the lower earning partner, you should not be expected to fund your partner’s high priced hobbies. Instead, if one of you has (and can afford) a high priced hobby (e.g., golf), the hobbyist should pay for it out of his/her earnings after the agreed upon savings and investment goals have been met.
- Make a list of free and low cost things you and your partner enjoy doing together. I know I’m walking into a minefield of jokes here, but other than “that,” what do you like doing together? What free events are happening in your town? Hint: Google free or low cost events and your city name.
Above all, be honest, tactful, and ready to compromise. Realize that people who grew up in two different households will have two different ways of approaching money. While one or both of you may have habits you need to change, there isn’t a single right way to manage your money. If you want a successful union, you have to chart your path together.
Diony Cespedes, MBA, is the founder of Sole Strivers, LLC, a wealth-building consultancy that helps clients increase their net worth through career strategy, entrepreneurship and changes in earning and spending habits.
For more information, visit Solestrivers.com, follow @solestrivers on Twitter, or email Diony at Diony@solestrivers.com.
“Last year, our clients achieved net worth increases ranging from $5,000 to $70,000, reduced debt by at least 35%, and reached lifestyle goals like making more time to spend with loved ones.” These numbers alone are worth giving Diony a call.