Engaged Couples Should Talk Before They Walk

A recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) revealed that 68 percent of respondents held negative attitudes toward discussing money with their fiancé, with five percent indicating the discussion would cause them to call off the wedding.
“It is telling that two people who intend to spend the rest of their lives together would see a conversation about money as so disconcerting,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “The ability to have open and honest discussions is key to a successful marriage. With many brides and grooms walking down the aisle in June, regardless of how difficult it may be, the conversation about personal finances is one that should be neither ignored nor postponed. As a matter of fact, to increase the odds of making ‘happily ever-after’ a reality, the discussion should take place before the ‘I do,’ not after.”
Financial counselors at The Village Family Service Center recommend the following Do’s and Don’ts for that much-needed financial conversation:

  • Don’t spring the conversation on the other party. Instead, set a time to talk that is convenient for each.
  • Don’t hide income or debt. This is known as financial infidelity. Instead, in the spirit of openness, bring financial documents including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, existing debt obligations, and investments to the table.
  • Do make it a casual conversation about a serious subject, respecting the fact that each person has valid opinions and concerns.
  • Do be honest about the current financial situation. If the courtship phase of the relationship has painted a financially unrealistic picture, it’s time to be honest about what the long-term lifestyle will look like.
  • Do probe to understand long-held financial attitudes, often present since childhood and likely ingrained, by observing how parents addressed money issues.
  • Don’t point the finger of blame. That’s a real conversation stopper.
  • Do acknowledge that one may be a saver and one a spender, understanding there are benefits to both approaches and agreeing to learn from each other’s tendencies.
  • Do make a plan in advance to deal with any skeletons that come out of the financial closet. Such surprises can potentially compromise access to future credit. Now is the time to deal with surprises.
  • Do allow each person to have independence by setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.
  • Do construct a budget that includes savings. When just getting started, money is often tight, making it tempting to delay beginning to save. However, when every cent counts, it is even more important to have a financial safety net in the form of savings.
  • Do decide which person will be responsible for paying the monthly bills. It is likely that one spouse will be a good fit for this task, while the other finds it burdensome.
  • Do decide upon short-term and long-term goals. It’s appropriate to have individual goals, but having family goals is important, too.
  • Do talk about loaning money to family members and friends. Decide if it’s something each is comfortable with or should be avoided.
  • Do talk about caring for aging parents, and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs, if necessary.

How you are going to handle money matters is an important discussion to have before getting married. In addition to the Do’s and Don’ts listed, Money Talks News advisors suggest you take your financial discussion a bit further. In her article, “Ten Money Matters to Discuss Before Marriage,” author Allison Martin includes two additional subjects to consider: children and retirement.
The average cost of raising a child born in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is $245,340. Data shows costs slightly lower in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and the Midwest in general, when compared to either of the two coasts. Regardless, that is still a lot of money—college costs are not included in that total. If children are part of your life plan, creating a timeline to save for the expenditure is a wise decision and a worthy discussion.

Marriage, Money, and Faith
Several area churches require that engaged couples, who are planning to marry in their church, take a financial course. At Hope Lutheran Church in Fargo, Pastor Paul Nynas explains why they require the Freed-Up Financial Living Course for engaged couples. “It’s not that money, in and of itself, is good or bad,” says Nynas. “The Bible teaches that the ‘love of money’ (1 Timothy 6:10), or greed, is the problem. Where couples or individuals get in trouble with finances is when they have an unhealthy relationship with their wealth—when they put wealth before God.” The course Hope offers allows couples to consider how they will manage their financial resources together. Participants develop a spending plan and are given communication tools to talk about finances. “We feel this is an important aspect of married life, which is why it is a requirement,” says Nynas.
Some churches may not offer or require engaged couples to take a course specifically on finances, but they encourage premarital retreats for couples or other counseling that includes a segment on financial management.
Pastor Tony Scheving from Fargo Baptist Church explains they have couples go over a variety of biblical materials on the responsibilities of marriage. “Addressing finances is covered in the material, since it is one of the leading problems within marriage,” says Scheving.
Overall, the response seems positive. “Most couples are eager to learn as much as they can to help prepare them for marriage. After taking the course, couples say they feel equipped and encouraged to handle their finances,” says Nynas.

For young engaged couples, retirement may seem too distant to worry about, but it’s never too early to plan for those “golden years.” The value of compound interest comes into play here. Albert Einstein called it the “greatest mathematical discovery of all time.” The younger you begin saving for retirement, the longer your money can compound for you. Discuss the types of long-term savings and investment vehicles that will work for the two of you. For older engaged couples, it is critical to discuss what you think your retirement will look like and what you need to do now to make those dreams materialize.
For professional assistance bringing two incomes, two lifestyles, and two financial attitudes together, talk to a financial counselor at The Village. Go to www.HelpWithMoney.org or call 1-800-450-4019.

Filed Under: In This IssueMoney & Consumer

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