4 Money Conversations You Should Have Before You Commit

Before you tie your destiny and your credit rating to the person you love, there are some decidedly un-romantic conversations that you need to have in order to prevent discord and catastrophe later in life.

According to the New York Times, those are:

  • Your financial ancestry – how did your parents deal with money—and even farther back than that?
  • Your credit history – obviously.
  • Control over money – who will pay your household’s bills? Who makes the financial decisions?
  • Affluence and financial goals – how rich do you want to be as a couple or as a family? Financially, what is important to you?
  • We’d argue that this also applies to couples who are uninterested in or legally prohibited from marriage before they commit and combine households, too. The Times asked readers for their ideas—what are yours?

    Money Talks to Have Before Marriage [New York Times]

    (Photo: afagen)

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  1. zacox says:

    I’m not exactly certain how financial ancestry – how our parents handled their financial affairs – really has that much to do with our abilities. Sure, I’ve seen where the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but I’ve also seen where parents were financial gods and the children were financial disasters, and vice versa. I’d guess there’s about as much chance of one vs. the other.

    • K-Bo says:

      @zacox: If you are going to end up financially supporting your inlaws, or if they are still alive grandparents inlaw, wouldn’t you rather know that going in, rather than having it sprung on you 15 yrs later when they get sick and have no savings to care for themselves?

    • teh says:

      @zacox: You are right that how your financial ancestry isn’t directly relevant, but how you answer the question can be quite elucidating. What you admire or despise about your parents’ actions says quite a bit about how you handle money.

    • meltingcube says:

      @zacox:
      Seeing the way my parents handle money has greatly affected the way I manage mine. On one side of the tracks there’s my mom, who can’t keep a cent in her accounts, has nothing in her name, and bad credit. Yet on the other side there’s my father, who has a good savings, everything in his name, and great credit. Seeing both sides I know how much better it is to get what I want in life if I keep my credit good, and my savings up there.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      @zacox: It’s directly relevant. Haven’t you ever seen the magnets that say “Oh Shit, I’ve become my father / mother”?

      You have a whole collection of behaviors you aren’t even aware of, many of them financial, learned at an early age and internalized, and a prospective partner has the right to know how you roll, and knowing how your parents are are big clues.

  2. Esquire99 says:

    The financial goals discussion is the most important as far as I’m concerned. When my wife and I were still dating, we had some really tough times when it came to money. Her family generally lived by the “if the account isn’t negative at the end of the month, great” philosophy. She would spend every dollar she had without any regard for savings or emergencies. It took me a LONG time to get her on the same page as me. Just because there is money in the account doesn’t mean it should be spent. We still hit the occasional rough patch with that.

    Also, it’s important to establish good communications with regard to money. I like to know what she is spending money on if it’s a “significant” amount (more than $40 or so), but not because she needs my “permission” but merely so I know what’s going on (I manage the money). For a long time, she became defensive when I would ask what she spent $x on, or how much she planned to spend when she went to the mall. She thought I was trying to get her to ask me for permission, when I just wanted to know so I could factor it into the budget.

    It can be a real challenge when both parties come in with different financial ideals, and it can take some time to iron it all out. Patience and willingness to adapt are important.

    • wallspray says:

      @Esquire99: saying you only cared based on “you do the budget” is a lie, either to us, or yourself. you both wanted to know so you could budget, but also want her to have to tell you so she feels culpable.

      • Esquire99 says:

        @wallspray:
        I wasn’t aware we had psychiatrists on here. Shall I tell you about my childhood? How about my bad dreams?

      • SuperSally says:

        @wallspray: That’s horseshit. I had to have the same convo with my husband (I’m solely responsible for the bills) so I’d know how, when and where to shift money around. He didn’t have a problem with it. I also let him know whenever I have purchased something $50 or over, or if I’m planning on purchasing something $75 or over so that he’ll know that if he gets a wild hare to spent something larger than we normally do, to wait until the next pay period. It’s common sense when you have one person who handles all the money.

        • Esquire99 says:

          @SuperSally:
          Clearly you’re lying too. You want your husband to feel culpable for spending money. Why do you think that is? Did you have a pet hamster die when you were young? Maybe your control issues come from a bad experience in high school.

          Clearly Wallspray has (or had) some issues at home with money and can’t comprehend the idea that others don’t. Thus, anyone that doesn’t is lying to themselves about their reasoning for keeping track of a spouses spending. I mean, it just makes no sense that the spouse who tracks the money and pays the bills would actually need to know where and when material amounts of money is going in order to do their job.

          • wallspray says:

            @Esquire99: i’d like to hear about both your childhood and bad dreams, yes.

          • SuperSally says:

            @Esquire99: If it were about me making him feel “culpable” then I wouldn’t call him to notify him when I do the same. The fact is, we live on a tight budget, and if 50 bucks goes one place on one paycheck, both of us need to know.

      • JennQPublic says:

        @wallspray: My husband knows he needs to call me if he spends over $50, so I can make sure there’s enough in our checking account to cover it. I handle all transfers, so, yes, he really does have to tell me.

        It’s not an issue, because he’s pretty frugal, and when he splurges, it’s likely to be on something for me, anyway.

      • mythago says:

        @wallspray: A really easy way to deal with this issue is to budget “free money” or “allowance” or whatever you want to call it. You each get $50 (or $100, or whatever) cash straight out of the budget that you can spend on whatever. You don’t have to account for it or explain it. Of course, this also means that a lot of discretionary/luxury/impulse buys have to come out of that money rather than the household budget.

        • tbax929 says:

          @mythago:
          The easiest way to do it is to not comingle your finances in the first place. Have one account that’s for household expenses, and each of you also has your own money.

          I would never put up with someone expecting me to call them every time I made a purchase over $50. Screw that.

          • Munchie says:

            @tbax929 is rooting for a Phillies repeat: Agreed on the separate accounts. My spouse and i have a joint account that our portions of household expenses go into. The rest is our own discretionary money in our own accounts. Its not a trust or anything else issue, we are just don’t want to deal with the logistics.

            • Esquire99 says:

              @Munchie:
              If you don’t mind my asking, how old were you and your spouse when you got married? Were you both already in career-mode with (at least) modest financial success?

          • mythago says:

            @tbax929 is rooting for a Phillies repeat: What’s a “household expense”? If I break my ankle, does the hospital bill come out of my pocket, or do we each pay half? What if my spouse makes a lot less money than I do?

            You’re confusing two things: commingling money, and agreeing on how money should be handled.

  3. MickeyMoo says:

    I think the “your’s – mine – our’s” approach is the best – each person keeps their individual account, and pays 1/2 into a joint account for joint expenses. Leaves a nice clean paper trail for your accountant, easy to keep track of what is spent, and when you end up in front of Judge Judy bitching about who paid for the dinette set, no one gets yelled at.

    • Esquire99 says:

      @MickeyMoo:
      In my experience, this doesn’t work. All of the couples that I know that have had problems and ended up separating didn’t share money. The reason they all separated? Money (amongst other things). Personally, I think if you can’t successfully share all of the money there is something wrong.

      • lmarconi says:

        @Esquire99: I don’t know – I see a point to this system, with modification.
        Bf and I are both good with money, but we have very different spending habits. For example, he likes to buy lunch at work, I like to bring mine most of the time and save the money. I generally like to save on stupid things so that I can feel comfortable occasionally splurging, he hates to restrict himself and as a result, he spends a good bit more than me on non-essentials in the long run. We’ve talked about merging accounts and I think we’d use separate accounts with a joint household account, at least as long as we’re unmarried because it’ll save us a lot of fighting. I actually think it’s a positive thing because at least we’ve talked about the issue for awhile, compromised as much as possible, and found a way to address it – I bet communication is the problem in most of these relationships, not money.
        Besides, this can be a great system if (like with us) one person has a lot of student loans or significant debt – helps to keep the other person’s credit clean!

      • MickeyMoo says:

        @Esquire99: for my friends to have such easy problems… lol

        But I agree with you in principle (with the right couples) – my folks merged finances from day one, and never argued about money for 50 years. The kids now a days, I’m not so sure…

      • K-Bo says:

        @Esquire99: My parents didn’t start using a joint checking account until after 25+ years of marriage. They just each knew which bills they were responsible for, and paid them. The reason they ended up starting to use the joint account was my dad’s early retirement. At that point they combined everything, and he started to do all the bill paying and financial stuff, since he had more free time. I’m not saying it would work for everyone, and it requires a ton of trust, but it can work.

        • Esquire99 says:

          @K-Bo:
          I don’t deny that it works for some people, but my suspicion is that for most it simply breeds conflict. The couples I know that kept it separate ended up resenting the other when they ran out of money and the other didn’t, when they ended up picking up an emergency bill because the other was out of money, had issues deciding who was to pay for dinners out, etc. To me, keeping the accounts separate is contrary to the idea that marriage is a “merging” of the two people. If you’re going to keep everything separate, why bother getting married?

          • K-Bo says:

            @Esquire99: the couples I know that do it this way are all very frugal people, who aren’t using it as an excuse to spend on things the spouse wouldn’t approve of, and many just find it easier to keep all the accounts balanced when not having to chase each other down and say was this $50 charge mine or yours, or a bank error. I could see some people not feeling this way, but if feel someone is bad enough with money that I don’t trust them with their own money, I can’t trust them with mine. That and I’ve seen couples with their money so tightly coupled together they can’t even buy each other $50 presents without ruining the surprise. Where’s the fun in that?

          • ARP says:

            @Esquire99: “If you’re going to keep everything separate, why bother getting married?”

            I think a bank account is a small part of it. We use the separate accounts system and its hasn’t failed yet. They key is to separate the bils in a realistic way and to think about those bills which may fluctuate (e.g. gas or electric in the mid-west). Also, if you can each person should have some “cushion” for their splurges.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        @Esquire99: 3 buckets works well for us. We have a joint account for the household and we each have individual accounts. This doesn’t absolve us of the need for communication and planning, since at the moment my partner is in medical school and pulling down debt instead of working, but we made a plan before med school started, deciding what’s reasonable out of the med school loans for living expenses and what goes to school, travel for residency interviews, etc. I do the bills and such, but then I always have. I know what I have available from him for the household stuff, and what I contribute. For now, emergencies are my responsibility because I have an income.

        One of the things that’s different about our situation is that we actually HAVE to think about it… since we can’t legally marry, we don’t have the whole “community property” legal standard to fall back on. Everything has to belong to someone. We may do a legal partnership or corporation for the next house, but I’ll have to look into the state homestead rules before we do that… it would be better to save on taxes every year than to “legally” each own 50% of the house.

        • Esquire99 says:

          @GearheadGeek:
          It really is unfortunate that our country is still so closed-minded that you and your partner have to go through all kinds of craziness just to own a house and share money/bills/obligations. Hopefully that will change someday soon, though the Govt. doesn’t seem to want to make it a priority.

        • wellfleet says:

          @GearheadGeek: I will second that it is *ridiculous* that you and your partner have to go through all this silliness in order to establish a household. Your civil rights are coming…

          That said, even though it’s not romantic, you need a financial contract with your partner because, and this is from a Judge Judy fanatic, if you support your partner through med school and he gets a big time gig making a ton of money and leaves you, you are left with nothing.

          JJ always says they don’t make laws for “living together” which, unfortunately, is your situation. Protect yourself.

          I see many of my peers buying homes with people they are not married to and hoping it all somehow works magically. And that’s why JJ has a show.

      • mythago says:

        @Esquire99: I don’t mean to give you a heart attack, but I agree entirely. What happens if one person loses their job, or makes much less money in the first place, or if you want one person to cut back and be home with the kids? People who are obsessive about ‘fair share’ are not going to be happy when “each put in half” means one person puts in $5,000 and one person puts in $50,000.

        • Esquire99 says:

          @mythago:
          I did have to catch my breath, but no heart attack. You raise an interesting point with the income disparity issue. The people I know all made roughly the same salary, but what do you do when one spouse make $200k per year and the other makes $50? Each put in $2k/month for household bills and the rest is just your own to spend as you see fit? So the $50k person has almost nothing left while the $200k spouse is buying anything and everything he or she wants?

          • floraposte says:

            @Esquire99: I don’t think that precludes the three-buckets approach, since it’s utterly negotiable how each partnership distributes the stuff into the bucket–you’re going on a fixed number for both partners there, for instance, but it can a different fixed number for each, or a percentage for both. It can also always be renegotiated.

            I get what you’re saying about the money-sharing, but I think that kind of goes back to the article itself–what it means to share or not share money depends on, well, what it means to you–a couple wherein one person believes that a refusal to pool is a lack of trust and the other believes that a refusal to allow independent funds is a lack of trust are headed for trouble. I know more longterm couples who don’t totally pool than who do, and neither behavior seems to be a reliable harbinger of trouble or faulty commitment among my acquaintances. (I’m reminded of Lady Bird Johnson’s assertion, “I wouldn’t share a joint checking account with the Archangel Gabriel.”)

            There’s the axiom that money is the number 1 reason for divorce, but in general that seems to be pretty questionable, because there’s not a whole lot of financial difference between people who stay married and people divorcing, so that seems to be a mistaken self-report of the reason. What I like about the article is it seems to get into the things behind money that make people’s dealings with it turn into partnering rifts.

            • Esquire99 says:

              @floraposte:
              Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly see the argument for keeping money separate. I wouldn’t have to listen to my wife complain when I buy something at the Apple store, etc. I guess it comes down to my personal experience. I don’t think that separate accounts would work for my wife and I, and I don’t know any couples who have successfully done the separate account thing.

              I wonder if that tends to be more successful when the couples get married after they have already had some personal financial success, as opposed to right out of college before either has settled into a job and established personal financial security. When you both start at the bottom and start to work up, it seems that it’s easier to work together and pool totally. However, I can see how if both had already been on there own for awhile and were even moderately successful financially that it would be difficult to give that up completely. I’m still relatively young (26) and I’ve been married for over 3 years, but my wife and I have been sharing money for closer to 5. All of the couples I know who couldn’t make the separate thing work are all similar in age and similarly situated.

              • floraposte says:

                @Esquire99: Yes, I was thinking our different experience with partnership norms could well be a reflection of what circles we move in. Most of the people I know would be largely what you describe–people who established independent financial identity and security before coupling up. Even the moving the physical households together becomes a challenge there.

              • pecan 3.14159265 says:

                @Esquire99: @floraposte: Mr. Pi and I are a good example of the second example. We both got jobs right out of college and decided to get married about a year after. Both of us being on the bottom of the totem pole helped us pool our resources with a feeling of equality, even though we didn’t make the same amount. Even now, one of us makes more than other, neither of us feel any sense of unfairness. His money is my money, and my money is his. We discuss all large purchases and we keep an eye out for each other.

              • mythago says:

                @Esquire99: Wait now, you don’t check in with your wife before spending $X at the Apple store but she has to check in with you before spending $40? I can see why she complains.

                And yea, I don’t see any way to make the separate-accounts thing work unless you are both healthy, abled workers with very similar incomes and no kids. As soon as somebody loses their job or cuts back their hours what do you do? Bill the lower-earning partner for their inferior contribution?

                • Esquire99 says:

                  @mythago:
                  No, I always tell her before I buy anything there (and ensure there are no objections). My point, however inartfully made, was that it would be easier if I didn’t have to tell her I was going to spend money at the Apple store.

                • floraposte says:

                  @mythago: I think you and Esquire are only seeing this as “the account wherein each deposits half of the expenses,” and it’s more flexible than that–it doesn’t have to mean that both people put the same amount of money into the shared access account, or even that both people are always putting money into it in order to have the “right” to withdraw from it. You can go for “we put everything in the joint account except for 1%” or “one puts in $x, one puts in $y,” or anything in between. It’s not particularly complicated, espcially if your paycheck, like mine, can be set to do the divvying automatically between two accounts. The people I know have just renegotiated when the situation changed–after all, it’s not like the goal is never to talk about money again, and if somebody’s going back to grad school or taken down to half-time or whatever, you’re going to have to talk about finances anyway.

                  It’s not about a requirement to split stuff down the middle any more than pooling money is. It’s just a different way for couples to approach the “money you can spend on non-shared expenses” issue.

                  • Esquire99 says:

                    @floraposte:
                    I think, at least for me, it’s about how you view marriage. To analogize, I see marriage as a full-blown corporate merger; the two old companies go away and become one fully combined new company. Others may see it more as more of a joint venture, where the two companies continue to exist in their exact same form, save the “joint” expenses (house, bills, etc.).

                  • mythago says:

                    @floraposte: “We put everything in except 1%” is, essentially, pooling your money and setting aside an allowance. I don’t understand how people obsessed with fairly dividing money and controlling their own asses work “I put in X, you put in Y.” What happens when 90% of my money is going to pay the bills and 10% of his money is? Or when a 50/50 split means that he pays $100 a month and I have to cover $1000? What about unexpected expenses?

                    I’m not saying that people can’t make such a system work. I’m just saying that the idea probably sounds a lot more appealing if you’re a young, dual-income couple with no kids, no major expenses and stable employment. For everybody else it’s kind of a pain in the ass.

                  • chocolate1234 says:

                    @floraposte: Exactly. Each couple does what works for them. I don’t really know why it’s automatically assumed that if a couple doesn’t share an account, both are held responsible for exactly 50% of the expenses. My parents have been married for over 30 years and have NEVER had a joint account. They haven’t always made the same amount of money either, but they adjust so that each party is allotted a certain amount.

                    My fiance and I have both individual and joint accounts, and we split bills in half right now because we make pretty much exactly the same salary. When I go back to school next year, he’ll take on the bills. Really not complicated, and it works for us.

        • chocolate1234 says:

          @mythago: Having individual accounts doesn’t mean the couple splits things 50/50. This seems to be a common misconception.

        • chocolate1234 says:

          @mythago: My bad, I had forgotten that the original comment did state that the couple would each contribute half.

    • MickeyMoo says:

      @MickeyMoo: sorry grammar police, overactive apostrophe finger.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      @MickeyMoo: I say just put a bowl by the door. Leave what you have, take what you need. Free love, baby.

    • Crim Law Geek says:

      @MickeyMoo:
      In New York (and probably elsewhere), depositing money into an account jointly-held with a spouse is considered a gift of 50% to the spouse. I don’t remember if it’s 50% of the account or 50% of the deposit (probably the account). My point is that ease of accounting is not a good reason for keeping separate accounts.

      Also, unless both members of the couple make the exact same amount of money, somebody is getting screwed in your scenario (since 50% of $100K is a bigger hit than 50% of $200K).

      Division of property is also not a good reason, since the property bought during the marriage will probably be considered communal property anyways, and subject to being split regardless of who paid for it.

      IANAL (yet), not legal advice, blah, blah, blah

    • bonzombiekitty says:

      @MickeyMoo: Personally, I would probably do it this way – all the money from both incomes (if it’s dual income) gets pooled together. Necessary bills are paid off as they come in and at the end of the month the remaining divided up into a few categories.

      Most of the money goes into a savings account of some sort and if money is to be used from that account it should be agreed upon. This money is intended to be used for larger purchases and emergencies.

      A smaller portion is kept for joint discretionary use like going out to dinner or something. Like the savings account $$$, the use of this $$$ should be agreed upon.

      Then each person gets a smaller portion of an equal amount to do as they please with it; it’s basically an allowance. They can use it for their own hobbies, gifts, or whatever – pretty much anything without needing approval from the other person. Exceptions to that would be things that would have a very real impact on communal stuff. For example, if Bob hates the couch and Mary doesn’t really think it’s necessary to buy a new couch from the communal savings, he can’t just go out and buy a new couch with his money without consulting Mary. He can buy the couch with his money but Mary needs to have some input.

      The important thing to all of this is that both people get an equal share.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      @MickeyMoo: @MickeyMoo: @BabyFirefly: Yup read my comment above.

  4. Trai_Dep says:

    To heck with the lease vs own, or toilet paper up vs down or rolling balance vs pay-it-off topics.
    When MY baby wants to shackle me up all legal-like, In The Eyes of the Lord(s) fashion, we’re going to have to have an in-depth discussion weighing the pros & cons of Bong vs Spliff. With lots of real-world testing.
    And Cheetos. Oh YES, there will be Cheetos!

    …Well, there would be, except for that the damn stuff puts me to sleep now. Darn.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @Trai_Dep: I’m glad you have your priorities straight.

    • ARP says:

      @Trai_Dep: Bong, I have such wimply lungs now for that stuff.

    • JennQPublic says:

      @Trai_Dep: Hearted just for this. :-)

    • mythago says:

      @Trai_Dep: The toilet paper issue is easy. Get a cat, and then you can’t have toilet paper hanging on the spindle anyway. You have to put it up out of cat reach.

      • mazzic1083 says:

        @mythago: Most of the cats I had growing up as a child would agree with this philosophy.

        My wife’s two cats that we inherited from family members have absolutely no draw to the stuff. As a kid I’d come home from school to shreds of toilet paper all over the bathroom but these cats just ignore it. Weird

      • secret_curse says:

        @mythago: My wife got me a cat for my birthday. It’s the first cat she’s ever lived with, so I’ve had to hide all of the toilet paper spindles. It’s second nature for her to put TP on the spindle, and I’ve had cats all my life so I’m used to it being free and above the toilet somewhere. If she finds a TP spindle, we’ll come home to a happy kitty and a roll of TP run all over the house then shredded into little bits…

  5. BabyFirefly says:

    Why does the financial ancestry matter? Does this have any true effect at all?

    • K-Bo says:

      @BabyFirefly: As I replied to an earlier comment, if those ancestors are still alive, and may end up dependent on you, it matters big time. My parents went through this when my dad’s parents ran out of money 15 years before they died. My dad single handily paid for everything from that point on for them. This put a big dent in my parents finances. That’s something I’d rather see coming and plan for than to be hit broadside by it years into marriage. I wouldn’t not marry someone over that, but it would have to figure into our plan to start saving more from day 1 so when that day comes, money isn’t quite as tight.

  6. yume_ryuu says:

    I’ve learned through experience that I am terrible with money. I blow it immediately and then wonder where it all went. SO, my significant other decided the best way to handle this was that he has financial control, which is fine by me. I get my allowance each month and everything else gets put away and saved. He pays the bills, but I do control the credit card which is used only for groceries and paid off immediately each month.

    • ARP says:

      @yume_ryuu: Serious question, does the allowance bother you? I know some people would be offended at the prospect of being given an allowance. Objectively, I think its a good system, but emotions are really the problem when it comes to money.

    • nstonep says:

      @yume_ryuu: What difference does it make? Might as well enjoy things because you might die tomorrow.

      Pinch pennies when you actually have things to spend them on (like kids, family, health, etc.).

    • mythago says:

      @yume_ryuu: While this is a good system, I hope that he is showing you exactly where the money goes, even if you let him handle it. Way too many people find out the hard way that the “responsible” person has been “responsible” to themselves only.

      • yume_ryuu says:

        @mythago nstonep ARP:
        I can see the points that you three make, and sometimes I wish I had a little more money to just blow but it’s not like I don’t get the things I want. I have tons of material things – a Wii, Xbox360, PS3, a computer, a beautiful long lense camera, and countless other things. But anytime I have ever bought stuff, there is always something else I want. Its like a never ending cycle.
        He takes me out to dinner, we always try to do things that are fun, but an allowance insures that I don’t take my entire paycheck and blow it. Which is exactly what I used to do when I lived alone.
        Honestly I don’t know how I feel sometimes about the allowance. I wish I had a little bit more money a month…

        • lordmorgul says:

          @yume_ryuu: It is very good that you’re allowing yourself to be helped, but while you do that you should also be learning how to manage by being involved with it. Sit down and pay the bills together, balance the accounts together, and figure the expendable income together. Learning to manage money is not just about the math, it is about the process of identifying priorities and obligations that make sense; when you’ve done that it is not hard to keep from blowing a paycheck… you have priorities.

          • yume_ryuu says:

            @lordmorgul:
            What you say makes perfect sense. But when the bills are all in Japanese and I am still learning the basic kanji, translating becomes more of a hassle than a learning process. I also work 12 hours a day, and I know I shouldn’t say this, but I am glad all the money is dealt with for when I get home because I am the one that has to buy the groceries, cook the dinner and do a lot of the cleaning. This must seem so strange to people not living in Japan, but this is just the way life is here.

            • floraposte says:

              @yume_ryuu: Yes, it’s hard to fit this around the other stuff of life, and I think that dividing up responsibilities in a partnership according to what works for a couple is fine. But I would encourage you to try to set aside some time with your partner to know some basics and just create an “in event of emergency, here’s what I need to know” summary about bank accounts, access, etc. If you’ve got an SO suddenly in the hospital, you want to be able to access money without him and have a rough idea of how much there is. (Which maybe you do already, which is great.)

        • mythago says:

          @yume_ryuu: There’s nothing wrong with an allowance if it’s a budget item that you’re both comfortable with (and it’s probably best if you BOTH have the same allowance). The problem is when he has all the power to make decisions, rather than the two of you deciding together, with you generally choosing to go along with his point of view because it makes more financial sense; or when he is not accountable to you for where the money goes. Whether or not you spend it has nothing to do with knowing how it gets spent.

          You don’t want to find out the money is “dealt with” by your SO blowing part of it on gambling or putting it away in his own private bank account.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      @yume_ryuu: Two words: Dave Ramsey – start his financial peace program and you won’t behave that way any more, and you’ll be so glad.

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I think there should be a 5th discussion – about gambling – especially if you are going to have a joint account or any joint debt with your spouse.

    • tbax929 says:

      @lovemypets00:
      Don’t marry a gambler. Problem solved.

      • floraposte says:

        @tbax929 is rooting for a Phillies repeat: I think the notion is also that this is how you’d find out you were doing such a thing. Can’t weed it out if you don’t know it’s there.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @floraposte: Mr. Pi didn’t know that my friends and I sometimes play poker for money until he visited me during summer break. I didn’t think it was going to be a subject of contention, we rarely played for more than $5. After a while, though, he was fine with it, especially since I’m pretty good and usually make a profit.

          • mazzic1083 says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: I constitue those penny poker games as more of a novelty than actual gambling. Anything under $5 like that is more for the fun of the friendships and not necessarily “gambling” just for profit. At least in my mind anyways

            • secret_curse says:

              @mazzic1083: There’s really no such thing as gambling for profit, outside of the extremely small percentage of people that make their living playing poker. It’s not possible to make a long term profit from the casinos on any other game. Blackjack rules have been changed in most casinos to the point that the player’s advantage is very, very close to zero. Every other game in the casino has odds that are overwhelmingly in the casino’s favor.

              That being said, I think it is important to know how someone feels about it. If one party is a compulsive gambler and the other isn’t, it’s going to be a huge drain on the relationship. If they’re both compulsive gamblers, they’ll go bankrupt over an over. I really think the only responsible way to enter a casino is with a budget you can afford and won’t go over under any cirumstances. See that budget as your entertainment for the night and have a good time…

  8. Zeke_D says:

    We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this year-
    Our financial arrangement is quite simople:
    1. I make the money and give it to her.
    2. She pays the mortgage, bills and buys food
    3. If I want something, she tells me how long I have to wait untill we have enough cash on hand to purchase it.
    4. Everyone is happy!

    • NETHED says:

      @Zeke_D:
      AMEN brotha!

    • samurailynn says:

      @Zeke_D: Heh… our situation is similar, except that we both make the money and give it to me.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      @Zeke_D: That’s good except that gives her too much power. You should be able to take an independent look at savings progress, and negotiate goals and priorities. For instance, an urgent home repair is needed, for real, but she doesn’t see it as urgent because she feels it is urgent to redecorate the living room, so she tells you there is no money, then spends on the living room furniture.

      Fail.

      Both partners should have knowledge of reality, or the one in denial has no power.

  9. RandomHookup says:

    You might also want to talk about any agreements, formal or not, to take care of other family members in the case of death — your sister’s kids, your mom or father-in-law. All those decisions should be on the table now, even if it’s just speculation.

  10. nstonep says:

    Ugh…this is a douchey topic and only one appreciated by women (due to the fact that most women are financial succubi).

    I’ll answer this with pithy comments:
    Women: DO YOU WANT TO MARRY A CHEAPSKATE?!?
    Men: DO YOU WANT TO MARRY A WOMAN THAT WEARS WALMART CLOTHES?!?

    There you go.
    Marry who you love regardless of the cost, but make sure you love them first. If money comes between you and your soulmate then you have no soul.

    • mythago says:

      @nstonep: You could try dating women who make a lot more money than you, but then I suppose your manly ego would be in the crapper.

      As for your silly (sorry…”pithy”) comments, one woman’s cheapskate is another woman’s prudent saver; for every man who wants to show off his wife in designer clothes, another man is thrilled that his wife wears no-name jeans and second-hand clothes.

      • floraposte says:

        @mythago: The variants in this area continue to astound me. And I think that’s a reason why discussing parental habits can be a help, too, because often it’ll become clear how important something is–whether it’s proving they can afford nice things or practicing serious frugality–when talking about how they experienced stuff growing up. “I wore Goodwill and handmedowns and promised myself I’d never buy used again” is just as significant a statement as “I was raised frugal and find that an important part of life.”

      • Naame says:

        @mythago: The purpose of this article is not to decide whether or not one should marry based on finances (although I admit there are cases where people change their minds due to these details).

        It’s purpose is to encourage the idea of getting on the same page about both of your financial lives before getting married. Everyone’s financial life, history, and goals are unique in some way, but what remains constant is that agreeing to a financial lifestyle and/or rules is necessary in any successful marriage in the US. It is better to work that out before saying “I do”. If nothing else, look at this way….working out those details is very likely to make your marriage happier and that is what matters most isn’t it?

    • Eels says:

      @nstonep: I hope you are a gay man, because your views of women are, shall we say, “douchey.”

    • Kasira says:

      @nstonep: Why, yes, I do want to marry a cheapskate. I’m a cheapskate too. We’d get along.

      Although I prefer thrift shops to Walmart.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      @nstonep: That was arrogant and misogynistic.

      Why wouldn’t men who are responsible financially care about finances, and it seems to me your conclusion that money and finances are a douchey topic means you are personally douchey / irresponsible with money management.

  11. ShariC says:

    My husband and I did not discuss money at all before we married, but we never fight about it. We just so happened to have the same values and were lucky. I’m a woman with no interest in clothes, jewelry, perfume, make-up, or recreational shopping. He’s not the type who needs to buy lots of electronics or go out drinking with buddies.

    If your values and interests are similar, you won’t have any problems, but otherwise it’s imperative to discuss money before marrying. While we don’t have to do this, if money ever were tight, what we’d do is add up all of the expenses and add what we want to save then split the remainder between us as discretionary money. That leaves either party free to spend equally on himself or herself without any sort of accountability issues that others are talking about here. If there is $150 left after all is done for the month, you each get $75 to do whatever you want with, no questions asked or judgments made. I think that the problem most people have is when they judge how the other person spends the free cash on themselves.

  12. mythago says:

    One of the best questions I’ve heard to ask your SO and yourself is: “How much money is it OK to spend without checking in with the other person first?”

    Knowing the answer to this says tons about how each of you feels not only about spending, but about power issues. If one of you says “ten dollars” and the other says “a couple hundred” then you have a big disconnect, ditto if the answer is “it’s OK for me to spend $100 because I make the money, but if you spend more than $5 you better ask me.”

  13. wellfleet says:

    My husband and I have been married for four years. I cannot imagine having separate accounts and going “halfsies” on expenses. The idea seems bizarre and counterintuitive. When I wasn’t working, his salary supported us. When I was making a lot of money, we stashed more money into our savings account. While he does all the accounting and bill paying, we consult over almost all discretionary purchases. While I made nearly twice as much as my husband, I wouldn’t spend more than $50 without letting him know and I would expect the same from him. It’s not about permission or about control, it’s about consideration and establishing trust. Plus, we can talk each other out of a purchase that isn’t as wise.

    Family history is EXTREMELY important and I am floored that people don’t think it matters. How your parents handled their finances is a great indicator of what your relationship with money will be like.

    But definitely, these are discussions to be had well in advance of walking down the aisle…

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @wellfleet: I agree, and I think any sense of separation when it comes to finances may bite you in the butt if one person loses his or her job, or that side of the family suffers a medical or financial setback and someone has to support the family. The issue then becomes, “well, when things were good, we went halfsies but now when things are bad, you expect me to pitch in and help support your family?”

      When you’re both contributing 100%, it ceases to be about fairness because you’re both in it completely, for better or for worse. When one person makes too little at his or her job, you both feel it because it affects both of you, not just the one person. Likewise, when things are good, you both reap the benefits.

    • mythago says:

      @wellfleet: Absolutely. Especially if you find out that your spouse thinks of their income as “my money” and your income as “our money”.

    • tbax929 says:

      @wellfleet:
      Spoken like someone who’s never had a husband walk out with your entire savings account. If that happens to you, check back with me and let me know if you still feel the same way.

      I make a good living, and I’m not willing to trust anyone again to the point where they can leave me pennyless. If someone I’m dating doesn’t get that, they can move on to the next one.

      • mythago says:

        @tbax929 is rooting for a Phillies repeat: Does having a husband walk off with most of the money after having sponged off you for years, sticking you with “personal” debt incurred in paying off his debts during the marriage, so he can go buy a house?

        If you don’t want to have a joint account with anyone, that makes sense. Other people do, and it’s not because it has never occurred to them that the other spouse has access to the money.

    • Alarm Bell says:

      @wellfleet:
      I agree, on the joint account issue. It baffles me that some couples don’t have joint accounts, and split the rent and all bills like they are temporary roommates. You should trust each other with money.

      I think it’s ok to have a separate account, in addition, which helps my and my husband to manage our money. Say, each month, we move a small but predetermined amount into a separate account, which serves as our individual shopping/girls’ night out/entertainment money, for when we do things without each other. Everything else is joint, and we can see each other’s accounts if we want, although we never do.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @wellfleet: Couldn’t agree more. The gf and I are years away from getting married, yet I have her on my Discover account, and she has me on her Amex… we can’t quite pool our incomes due to tax regulations, etc etc, but we both contribute to my mortgage/her car payments (I agree that this takes A LOT of trust, as either party could be out a lot of money if things go sour), and we buy groceries/clothes/vacations without micromanaging who swiped the card and who’s checkbook is responsible.

      I can’t imagine being close and possibly marrying someone that I couldn’t trust financially, since that is usually indicative of other trust issues as well.

  14. farmerjoe says:

    Family history also will help determine if you’ll be footing the tab for someone else’s parents’ retirement. Deal breaker in my opinion.

  15. jet1984 says:

    A helpful discussion is how financial responsibilities will be handled when the partners earn very different amounts of money. A factor into that is if a partner is working toward a higher degree in order to earn more money in the future. It’s a difficult position for both partners.