Planning to marry? Couples should talk about finances before saying ‘I do’

Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2006

Advice abounds in bridal magazines and on television talk shows about the perfect wedding dress, the most romantic wedding settings and how you can find quality, affordable wedding services.

The dress, the cake, the location — all of those are important. Yet there’s one planning element often missing from the intended couple’s to-do list, and it could be one of the most important elements of building a happy life together. It’s a serious talk about your finances.

No matter how sure you are that you and your future spouse can overcome all obstacles, they do arise, and one of the biggest causes of early marital strife is money. Arguments about how you spend it, where and how you keep it, how much you save and how much you owe are common among newlyweds.

Consider this: Divorce lawyers say that money is the one issue that most couples say they argue about — followed by children. Also, a report by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers notes that the most common causes of couple conflict are poor communication and financial problems.

Couples can best protect themselves against financial conflicts by having a heart-to-heart money talk before the marriage. That means fully and frankly discussing financial goals and habits. Here are several money topics you should discuss before you say “I do”:

· Long-term financial goals — Will you want to buy a house in the next few years? How about a second car? Does she want to quit her job and return to college for an MBA, thus delaying big purchases? Do you plan to have children? Your long-term goals will require a solid strategy and a disciplined savings plan. Try to agree on these goals in the beginning. Even if they change, you’ll still be way ahead.

· What you owe and your credit history — Both of you have the right to know if your intended has a troubled credit history. You can work together to improve your credit as couple, and you should make decisions about incurring future debt. For example, you may decide not to use credit cards unless you pay the entire outstanding balances each month.

It’s also a good idea for both of you to obtain copies of your credit reports and to share them with each other. If your credit as a couple is “in good health,” you’ll have even greater confidence going into the marriage. If it’s not, or you have unresolved credit issues, address them now rather than after your nuptials.

· How you’ll conduct your financial transactions — Perhaps you’ll want to maintain separate accounts. On the other hand, you may want to combine accounts, especially if it will result in better rates and lower fees. Maybe you are partial to different financial institutions. Perhaps you do all your banking online, but he’s not Internet savvy and doesn’t plan on changing. Talk about it and resolve these issues before the wedding.

· Retirement planning — You think you’re both too young to worry about retirement? Think again. All too often couples begin their financial planning for retirement after it’s too late to build a nest egg. Talk about it now. Where do you want to be financially in 20, 30 and 40 years? How much can you afford to put away toward retirement? What do your employers offer?

Determine your retirement goals and consider talking with a financial planner to map out your savings strategy.

Insurance checkup — Do you have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance? What about car insurance? Have you insured that new diamond ring on your left hand? And what about the new furniture and china? If you do business with a full-service financial institution, your banker can connect you with an insurance specialist who will help you set your safety nets.

Don’t leave financial talk out of your wedding planning. Discussing financial goals and habits now is a great way to open up the lines of communication for a happy, healthy marriage.

Kathy Gensel is the Wells Fargo Soldotna store manager. She can be reached at 262-4435 or

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