Marriage and Money: Talks for Happily Ever After
When you’re in a relationship (married or not), talking and agreeing about money may be key to success for happiness and your financial future together. Here’s what to consider.
Can marriage and money coexist happily together? Whether you tied the knot or are in a committed relationship, you and your partner can find financial bliss by making money a regular topic of discussion. The health of your finances and your relationship may depend on these important conversations as you manage money as a couple.
The Downside of Silence
Not talking about money can be detrimental. Even if you manage ﬁnances separately, understanding each person's money values, how you each manage debt and save are important to know.
Most people say they are very confident talking about money with their partners, and about 86% say they talk about it at least once a month. Still, finances continue to be a source of disagreements with 85% saying they argue about money about once a month too. Of those, 69% say they can resolve the problem with a conversation. Those that "let it slide" (about a third) seem to be the most unhappy, according to the latest Love and Money Survey by TD Bank.¹
So how can your finances help with your happily ever after, rather than be a source of contention? Consider the following as you and your partner open up about marriage and managing your money.
Before the Commitment
While most people wouldn’t want to talk ﬁnances when they just start dating, there is a point where you should share your money views before marriage or the commitment. Are you a carefree spender and your partner's a staunch saver? Is your partner a credit-card junkie and you believe cash is king? These are important to discover when considering money and marriage or a relationship.
When learning each other's ﬁnancial habits, it's important to note that you are both products of your upbringing. Parents' ﬁnancial beliefs and behaviors signiﬁcantly impact children's ﬁnancial views even if money problems were hidden or money wasn't talked about.
Blending Relationships and Money (or Not)
Experts agree that keeping ﬁnances separate has pros and cons, but the worst thing you can do is hide or lie about your situation. Even so, about 32% of people say they do keep financial secrets from their partners.¹
Whether you marry or live under the same roof, it's critical to discuss money before joining your lives— even if you decide not to merge your finances. While combining ﬁnances used to be a common practice, that's changing. Older couples are still more likely to have only joint accounts; younger couples tend to have only separate accounts.
If you do or don't share your ﬁnancial accounts, you should still plan together and make financial decisions as a couple.
4 Money Points to Agree On in Marriage and Relationships
If you blend ﬁnances, set parameters for spending and saving. This can be fairly easy, even with separate accounts. Decide which bills each person will pay and how much each will invest. Consider your incomes, debts and how much you want to save for future goals—like purchasing a home and retirement.
2. Managing Debt
Debts and credit cards are areas ripe for disagreements. If either partner is coming into the relationship with a lot of debt, deciding how to manage it (separately or together) is critical. How you will use credit and debt in the future also requires mutual agreement.
3. Saving for Emergencies
Regardless of your incomes, it's important to set money aside for surprises. Nothing can derail ﬁnances faster than an unexpected event, such as a medical emergency or a job loss. The general rule is to set aside six to nine months of expenses.
Investing separately can be a bit complicated, especially if one saves a whole lot more than the other. Develop your game plan together.
4. Investing in Your Futures
Some people are natural savers, while others struggle. We always advocate starting early with investing because it can add up to so much more, but you will need to consider each person's values and agree on priorities.
Remember that these are not one-time talks. Regular ﬁnancial discussions should happen at least monthly. It could even become your "money talk" date night.
Starting a Family
Bringing children into marriage or a relationship can change your lives in many ways, not the least of which is regarding money. Excluding college expenses, it's estimated that from birth to age 18, it will cost $310,000 to raise a child in the U.S.²
Luckily, you don't have to pay it all up front. Budgeting for extra expenses is a must when you start a family. Planning ahead for college expenses should also be on your list. Other pricey items to consider are child care, and increased household, food, clothing and transportation expenses.
Now is also a good time to consider other ﬁnancial planning needs, such as evaluating your life insurance and estate planning.
Empty Nesting or Sandwiched
When do we want to retire?
What do we want retirement to look like?
How much will we need?
How long will our savings last?
Will we need to adjust our expectations?
Your 40s and 50s are a good time to evaluate your ﬁnancial status. There are several things occurring: Your income could be peaking; the kids may have struck out on their own and retirement is getting closer.
Some ﬁnd themselves still supporting children and caring for aging parents, causing additional strain on your money and your relationship.
Rethinking budgets for changing expenses is a must. And it's also a good time to talk about the future and develop a solid, written down plan, even if you're still 10-15 years from retirement.
Talking to a ﬁnancial professional about your plan could be your best course of action as a couple.
Life After Work
Just because you stop working doesn't mean you stop talking about money. You still need to budget, maintain emergency funds and invest. You may even still be managing debt; it may, however, look different in retirement.
There are other decisions that you should have already made or should make now. Those include how much you'll withdraw each year from investments and from which ones ﬁrst, spending priorities, drawing Social Security beneﬁts and paying for potential medical expenses.
And if you haven't already, make your estate plan a priority—especially consider how to protect a surviving spouse or partner ﬁnancially.
Keep beneﬁciaries updated, especially if you aren't married. This will eliminate the possibility of your money going to default beneﬁciaries.
Keep the Dialogue Open
No matter your marriage or relationship stage, talking about your money should be a priority. Though you each bring views, it is possible to come to agreement over your ﬁnancial plan.
TD Bank Love and Money Survey, February 2022.
It Now Costs $310,000 to Raise a Child: “Something Has to Give”, Money Watch, August 2022.
This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.