If you were getting married, would talking about money with your fiancee before you tie the knot be an easy or an awkward conversation? In a recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, only 32 percent of respondents said this would be a productive and easy conversation.
Here is the actual poll question and the responses:
If I were getting married, I think that discussing money with my fiance would:
A. Be a necessary, but awkward conversation (45 percent).
B. Likely lead to a fight, so I would avoid this topic (7 percent).
C. Reveal financial issues I wasn't aware of (11 percent).
D. Cause us to call off the wedding (5 percent).
E. Be a productive and easy conversation to have (32 percent).
People are often reluctant to talk about money. We have infinite ways to spend money, but have limited financial resources, so it's not unusual for conflict to arise.
While talking about money can be uncomfortable, it's wise to discuss some basic financial priorities before marriage. Don't think of this as a one-time "financial summit" where you'll pound out a lifelong agreement about all financial issues, but as the beginning of a lifelong conversation.
One of the first steps can be talking about where you want to live, and developing a balanced spending plan. What will you spend on needs like housing, transportation, clothing, food and medical care? Will you be bringing financial commitments to the marriage, like student loans, car loans and cellphone payments? What are your dreams or goals?
By limiting spending on wants, many people are able to save money for future fun and future bills in a savings account. By anticipating expenses like car repairs, gifts and vacations, you have money to spend when these events happen. You reduce financial stress and don't have to go into debt for these expenses.
By working together to create a spending plan or budget, you build trust in each other and strengthen your relationship. While it's common for one person to pay the bills, it's wise if couples regularly talk about their finances, especially when you have unexpected bills. Talking about your options can build trust and understanding.
Did you identify with the 68 percent who were not eager to talk about money? It is not unusual to have conflict about financial issues, such as saving money, dealing with debt, or have different financial priorities.
Many couples find it helpful to have an impartial third party, like a nonprofit credit counselor, act as a coach to help them identify their financial options. To find an NFCC member agency near you, visit www.debtadvice.org.
- Alan Prahl is with FISC, a nonprofit program of Goodwill North Central Wisconsin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.