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Money and Marriage: Important Conversations Before Getting Married

Having tough conversations about money before marriage can benefit your relationship. This article presents important topics you should discuss.

Chris Scott

Contributing Writer at Tally

October 28, 2021

One in four Americans that are married or live with a partner claim to have tension in their relationship caused by financial decisions at least once per month, according to a study by the American Institute of CPAs. 

If you’re thinking of getting married, it’s important to have conversations about your financial situation with your future spouse. Doing so prior to tying the knot can help prevent surprises when you’re newlyweds. 

We’re going to cover some of the tough conversations you need to have about money and marriage, including:

  • How to make sure you’re on the same page 

  • How to set a budget together 

  • How to prioritize saving and investing

  • How to handle debt 

  • How to discuss your financial goals

4 tough conversations you should have before marriage

Discussing money with your partner before marriage only serves to benefit your relationship, no matter how difficult or awkward the conversation may be. Old and young couples alike who have money problems can face financial stress, which could cause increased tension in the relationship. 

Set a time to sit down and have an honest conversation with your partner about your money habits and financial future. The four topics listed below are excellent discussion points to help start the conversation. 


1. Your general philosophy behind money 

You can start the conversation by discussing the general philosophy behind your money management and financial decisions. Do you believe in saving aggressively for retirement, or are you more partial to spending money to enjoy life by traveling and going out to eat with friends? 

It’s important to understand how each of you view your personal finances and your overall money mindset. If one is a spender and the other is a saver, there could be strife later in the relationship. 

2. Whether you’ll have separate or joint bank accounts 

Similarly, it’s critical to establish where you’ll store your money. As a married couple, will both of your paychecks go into a joint checking account, or will you each have your own accounts? If you choose the latter, how will you handle paying the bills? Are you going to split your expenses equally? 

Perhaps you end up going with a hybrid method where you have individual checking accounts and a joint savings account, or vice versa. Whatever you choose, you should aim to have a financial plan in place prior to getting married. 

3. The debts you owe and your credit score 

If you have credit card debt, student loans, car payments or any other type of debt, your partner deserves to know the amount you owe. If your partner is debt-free and you owe thousands of dollars in debt, things could get complicated. 

In this scenario, is your partner willing to pay your debts? If not, are you still going to split your bills equally? When it comes to money and marriage, the fewer surprises you have, the better. 

Similarly, you may want to discuss your credit scores ahead of time as well. If one partner has a high score and the other has a low score, signing onto future debts together — like a mortgage for your first home — could be challenging. 

4. Passwords and beneficiaries

Of the tough conversations you need to have, this may be one of the most difficult. You should discuss who the beneficiaries are on your individual accounts, like a 401(k) or a savings account.

If your spouse-to-be is the beneficiary, they need to know about the account. You may also want to share passwords so that your partner can access the account and chase after money in the unfortunate event that you pass away. 

How to make sure you and your partner are on the same page

When it comes to money and marriage, ensure you and your partner are on the same page through communication. You should be open and honest with one another.

The bottom line is that being forthcoming about things like debt and poor credit scores will serve you better in the long run, especially compared to the alternative of your partner finding out later in your marriage. 

Make sure that you also continue to check in from time to time. Circumstances may change: Perhaps your cash flow increases, improving your financial security and allowing you to put more toward savings; on the other hand, maybe your cash flow decreases unexpectedly; or maybe you’re expecting a child and need to prepare for those costs. 

Conversations about money should be fluid and ongoing throughout your marriage. The more comfortable you are talking about money, the easier it’ll be to overcome road bumps. 

How to set a budget with your partner

Once you’ve discussed each other’s spending habits and future money and marriage plans, it’s time to establish a budget. There are numerous types of budgets you can choose from — find one that matches your financial goals. 

For instance, the 50/30/20 budget calls for 50% of your net income to go to necessary expenses, 30% toward unnecessary expenses like dining out or vacations and 20% toward savings. 

You can use this as a framework but fine-tune it with your partner to match your current situation and preferences. A financial planner can also help you establish a budget and work through what to do with savings. 

How to prioritize saving

Saving money can be challenging. Life is full of hardships and unexpected expenses. It can be made even more complicated if you and your partner aren’t on the same page about how much you want to save. 

If either one of you is struggling to save, there are two main things worth considering. 

First, work on paying off debt. When you borrow money, you have to pay it back with interest. Certain debts, like credit card debt, have compounding interest. This means that you’re charged interest on top of interest. Paying off your debts frees up cash that you can use for retirement and rainy-day or emergency funds

Second, make saving a part of your lifestyle. If you have a joint savings account, you can both set up automatic deposits from your paycheck. Even if you both contribute a mere $10 per week, you’ll end up with more than $1,000 in your account after a year. Saving money is easier when it becomes automatic and a part of your overall money personality. 

How to handle debt with your partner

When it comes to money and marriage, debt can cause serious tension — especially if it’s a surprise to one partner. If you have debt, it’s important that you disclose it to your partner. 

From there, work together to determine how you’re going to handle your finances. Is each person responsible for paying off their own debts? What if one person has a substantial amount of debt and the other person is debt-free? 

Legally, you’re solely responsible for the debts you accumulate before the marriage, assuming you don’t have a cosigner. After you’re married, in most cases, you’re both responsible for any debts you take on together. Every person’s situation is different, and it’s up to you and your partner to come up with a plan. 

As a rule of thumb, the quicker you pay off debt, the more flexibility you provide yourself. Paying off debt allows you to start working toward your financial goals. 

How to discuss your financial goals

Compatibility can be difficult when it comes to money and marriage. Even if your money personalities are the same, you may have different financial goals. One of you may want to save so that you can travel the world when you retire. The other may want to save for a boat or a new car. 

One idea is for both of you to write down your financial goals on a piece of paper and then share them with one another. If you have common goals, work these into your shared expenses. Keep your individual goals separate. 

Let’s say you’re the one who wants to buy a boat one day. Maybe you decide with your partner that 75% of your paycheck will go toward shared expenses and savings, while the other 25% is for you to spend as you wish. If you want to save for a boat, you’ll have to do so from this personal 25%. 

As long as you’re open with each other, it can be possible for you and your partner to have some financial goals that are the same and others that are different. 

Money and marriage — have the tough conversations now 

When it comes to money and marriage, it’s better to have difficult conversations before you get hitched. When a partner is hit with an unwelcome financial surprise — especially at the hands of their partner — tensions could escalate. 

It’s better to discuss things like money management strategies, savings and debt ahead of time so that you’re both on the same page going into your marriage. And if you’re already married and haven’t had these conversations yet, it’s better to do so sooner rather than later. 

One of the complications in money and marriage is debt. If you or your partner have credit card debt, check out Tally†. Tally is a credit card payoff app that helps you pay down your debt while also ensuring you meet all monthly payment dates. It’s a tool that could get you out of credit card debt quickly and free up cash so that you and your spouse can meet your financial goals. 

†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.