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Don’t wait until after ‘I do,’ to have a very vital chat about finances

In my years of hosting workshops and keynotes, many have approached me inquiring about the ideal time to discuss the topic of money with a significant other. Early in my professional career I often offered a time frame of after about six to eight months. However, as I have worked with more and more couples, I have realized there isn’t an exact timeline suited for everyone.

Now, when I receive the “money talk” question, I simply say that it needs to take place somewhere between seriously dating and saying, “I do.” I wouldn’t encourage anyone to waste their time discussing the topic of money with someone who hasn’t made it past the fourth date, nor would I approve of waiting until after getting married to have the discussion. The answer is in between the two.

With the number of people waiting until later in life to marry—27 years of age for women and 29 years of age for men, the amount of income and assets being brought into marriages are increasing. People have worked hard professionally to achieve their positions and salary by the time they arrive at the median age of marriage, so it’s important to connect with someone who carries a similar value and understanding of how you view, or desire to view money. By no means am I saying that both people need to be financial gurus, but I will say it’s absolutely necessary for two people to discuss the following:

  1. How much debt do you have? This is an important topic to discuss because it provides a snapshot of how your money will be allocated during marriage (at least early on). When debt is brought into a marriage, it changes how much can be spent, invested and shared. And just in case you’re wondering, $125,000 in student loans, $2,500 per month in child support, and $60,000 in credit card debt are things your significant other should know about prior to saying “I do.”
  2. Do you believe in joint or separate bank accounts? This is a decision that needs to be discussed up front so it doesn’t cause a messy distraction later on. Some couples choose to manage their household finance like roommates, where each is responsible for specific household expenses and pay from separate accounts. Others decide to pool their money together and manage monthly expenses from a joint account. Ultimately, you have to determine what makes the most sense for your relationship.

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