Marriage without financial planning walks on shaky legs

Have you talked about money recently with your spouse? Perhaps you should.

In the U.S., 43% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce, a 2022, a Forbes study revealed.

Couples divorce for many reasons. Excluding lack of commitment and infidelity, the top three reasons are excessive arguing, marrying too young and financial problems. Financial issues are attributed to divorce in 38% of all failed marriages.

A simple, (but not always easy) solution for increasing the odds of staying successfully married is to address your personal finances prior to formally committing to each other.

There are many topics that you should address to establish a healthy financial foundation in marriage. These discussions about money are not meant to be judgmental, but to help you understand your partner’s financial circumstances and beliefs, while establishing how you will work together in your marriage to accomplish your objectives.

Questions to discuss before saying “I do”:

— How does spending and saving money make you feel?

— What money messages did you learn as you were growing up?

— What is your credit score?

— What are your liabilities?

— What are your assets?

— How much do you save monthly?

— What is your annual income?

— Do you follow a monthly budget?

— Should we maintain individual accounts, or open joint accounts?

— Who will pay the monthly bills?

— What are your short-and long-term goals?

— What are your thoughts on having children?

— How often do you give your adult children or family members money?

Before marriage, determine if your individual net worth warrants a prenuptial agreement. A prenup is a legal document or contract prepared by an attorney that permits a couple to keep their finances separate. The contract outlines how assets and debts will be distributed should the marriage end. Even though discussing and implementing a prenup is not blissful, it is wise, especially if one partner has significantly more assets than their future spouse.

Talk about your finances

Establish a regular time to sit down and discuss your finances together. At the beginning, a monthly meeting is appropriate. Talk about what is working for you as a couple and what is not. The money conversation may not come naturally but is essential in the long term to successfully manage your finances together.

In time, once your patterns and routines are established, and you are communicating regularly about money, you may be able to meet less often. At minimum meet annually to discuss how your net worth has changed, as well as identifying and funding sources for future goals.

According to Fidelity Investments 2021 Couples and Money Study, communication between couples positively impacts their finances. Seventy-nine percent of couples who regularly communicate about finances expect to live a comfortable life in retirement, versus only 35 percent of those who do not discuss finances. Additionally, 73 percent of couples rated their household’s financial health as excellent or particularly good, versus 42 percent of the couple who do not communicate feel the same way.

Establish a budget

A budget is a personal plan to manage your money. It provides the opportunity to identify and monitor your spending. Simple as it may be, it is the foundation for sound money management. Discuss and implement a plan to work together to create your new monthly budget as a couple.

Identify all income and monthly expenditures, then discuss where the funds are coming from to pay each expense. At the end of the month, review your budget, it will provide a transparent snapshot of your monthly cashflow. When you understand your monthly cashflow, determine what you can change or eliminate to increase your savings to fund future goals and reduce outstanding debt.

Pay off debt

Make a list of all your debts on a spreadsheet or mobile app. Identify the lender, terms, balance owed, interest rates, expiration dates of promotional rates, and minimum payments. Excluding your mortgage, sort the debt descending from the highest interest rate to the lowest. Together determine your timeline and strategy for paying off the debt and plug the future payments into your budget.

Plan for big-ticket items

Are you planning to buy a home, purchase a car, or take a vacation in the future? Do you know how much this will cost, and have you thought about how you will pay for it? If the money is not readily available in your bank account, sketch out your timeline, break the expense down to a monthly cost, and again plug the expense into your budget.

In addition to communicating regularly regarding your finances after you’re married. You will need to:

— Review and combine your health, property and casualty insurance policies.

— Update beneficiary designations on life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities.

— Determine if you have a need for life insurance.

— Review and discuss your tax returns together with your CPA.

— Meet with an attorney to implement the appropriate estate planning.

Married or partnered individuals are more likely than single people to have a positive outlook on their future. They’re also more likely to prioritize saving for retirement, vacations, and their children’s education, according to a February 2019 report on Aging and Retirement from the Society of Actuaries.

There are many factors that contribute to this phenomenon, but when couples communicate and work towards their goals together, they have a greater chance of achieving financial success within their marriage, creating a prosperous future.

Teri Parker CFP® is a vice president for the Riverside office of CAPTRUST Financial Advisors and has practiced in the field of financial planning and investment management since 2000. Contact her at

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