October 21st, 2013

Should You Say “I Do” if You Are in Debt?

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Should You Say “I Do” if You Are in Debt?

**Today’s guest post is contributed by Tahnya.**

You may be in the middle of your engagement bliss if you are one half of a newly engaged couple. You’ve already said YES, but before you say I DO it’s very important to sit down with your spouse-to-be and have “the talk.” …The money talk, that is.

If you have been dating your fiance for quite some time, you most likely already know about their financial habits, including what their financial goals are, how they choose to spend money, and if they save for the short and long term. But unfortunately this is not always the case.

I have a couple of clients who came to see me because they recently got engaged and now want to set a three-year plan to save for their wedding. As we sat together to discuss their monthly income and savings capabilities as well as open a new joint savings account, one of my clients quickly realized that her future husband couldn’t save as much money as she could toward the wedding because he is $15,000 in debt.

I was shocked to learn that this couple has been dating for almost two years and the subject of money never came up. I talk about money all the time with my friends, my family, and boyfriend, but maybe that’s because I am a financial planner.

Here are 3 tips to have the money talk with your future spouse – sooner rather than later

Discuss opening a joint bank account.

Making the financial decision to open a joint bank account with your partner says a lot about the status of your relationship. If someone is willing to trust you with their money, you may be ready to start your happily ever after. However, if your future spouse doesn’t want to share their money with you, there may be underlying issues in the relationship. Opening a joint bank account also lets you monitor your future spouse’s spending habits, which lets you know what you are getting into before saying I DO.

Test the waters with a short-term savings goal.

Some people are just spenders by nature. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad with managing their money, it just means they enjoy spending their money (hopefully on nice things). If your spouse-to-be is more of a spender than a saver, give them a short-term money goal such as saving for a vacation within the next year or two. This will help them learn to change their financial habits from spending to saving. Although you shouldn’t expect your spouse to change overnight, over time you can definitely make progress toward changing their financial habits.

Leave your wallet at home and see what happens.

As a financial planner, I always tell my clients that money always shows peoples’ true colors. When it comes to money matters, usually matters of the heart don’t matter. The next time you go out with your spouse-to-be, leave your wallet at home and see their reaction toward paying for your night out on the town. Maybe they will be resistant, maybe they will be more than willing, or maybe they will do the same thing to you next time – either way you will know where your soon-to-be spouse stands on money issues.

Bottom Line: Talking about money with your soon-to-be spouse may not be the most interesting or comfortable activity, but it may prevent uncomfortable/tense situations in the future. Good luck!


Tahnya Kristina is a certified financial planner and personal finance blogger at Dinks Finance. She enjoys helping people land their dream job, achieve financial success and find personal happiness. Drop her a line and say hello on Twitter @TahnyaKristina.

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  1. It’s also good to note that debt acquired before the marriage does not become the responsiblity of the spouse. Only debt acquired within the legal union is subject to joint responsibility.

    Having said that and as the article notes, avoiding financial discussions is generally not wise. Doing so can be like kicking a can down the road because marital finance is not a subject that is easily avoided.

    AWB at 10:32 am on October 21, 2013
  2. I wouldn’t even consider getting married before we had all the cards on the table so to say. Both me and husband have known each other for 11 years now, trust each other completely and have common goals. I think it’s important to know where you stand before you commit your life and money to someone.

    dojo at 1:59 am on October 27, 2013
  3. @ AWB – I always talk about money, with family, friends, my co-workers or my boyfriend but maybe that’s just because I work in personal finance. I am comfortable talking about money and I think it’s important to do so – but maybe that’s just me.

    @dojo – Trust is a major issue too. I think that goes hand in hand with money.

    Tahnya Kristina at 7:18 am on December 20, 2013

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