Money Talks, So Should You

Having the money talk: Why you need to go bare about money

Temma Ehrenfeld
by Temma Ehrenfeld, Dimespring Contributor

Marriage should be good for your finances. Two live more cheaply than one. Couples often pay less for health and other insurance and are more likely to save.     

But money problems are also a top reason for divorce.  

Because the money talk often isn’t easy, couples tend to skip it or put it off. “There’s more shame around money than any other topic,” says South Dakota planner Rick Kahler. “Couples will talk about sex long before they’ll talk about debt.”

The “money talk” may be the most important talk couples have.

Bring it up gently, and perhaps have your conversation in stages, but it’s essential to discuss major issues before you wed or share a roof.

“Your ability to speak about money will mark you as couple who are committed to the relationship,” says Lise Andreana, a financial planner and author of “No More Mac’n Cheese!: The Real-World Guide to Managing Your Money for 20-Somethings.”

Andreana argues that someone who won’t talk about money isn’t ready to commit. If your honey won’t open up, she recommends asking yourself why. Do you want a partner who keeps secrets?

Consider the following a checklist:   

Career Plans: Know each other’s ambitions. You’ll need to accept the salary, hours and risks that come with your partner’s goals.

Education: Does your partner want more schooling and will that mean more debt or less income during the school years?

Debt: Come clean on credit scores and how many cards you use and hold. Agree on the importance of paying off school and card debt as soon as you can and your plan to clean up your balance sheets.

Spending: Are you comfortable with each other’s spending habits? Where can you compromise? How do you see your lifestyle changing in the next five years? The next 10?

Saving: How will you meet savings goals, for a home, trips, or kids’ college?

Responsibility: Decide if one person should be in charge of managing money and whether you’ll keep any separate accounts.

Childcare: If you plan on a family, will either of you be able to stay at home and for how long? If not, how will you pay for childcare?  

Housing: Do you want to buy or rent housing and what can you afford? If you want to buy a home, how quickly?  

Retirement: How does your partner see your life in your sixties and seventies? Is retirement an important goal and how will you achieve it?

Investment philosophy: Is your partner a risk-taker or super-cautious? Will you seek financial advice together to meld your styles?

Charity: Is your partner committed to giving a certain amount, and to what causes?

Family obligations: Normally taking care of other family doesn’t come up for young newlyweds, but if it’s a strong possibility, best to talk now before Mom moves in.


Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based writer. After many years at Fortune and Newsweek, she now writes on a variety of subjects for The New York Times, CBS Moneywatch, Scientific American MIND and MS., as well as Dimespring.