There comes a time when every couple, either before or after the wedding, will have to discuss personal finances. These things can't be kept secret forever, and the topic often raises both heated discussions and, unfortunately, arguments. Why not have this talk sooner than later? What happens when you are ready to buy a house, have a child, or even simply buy groceries? Who will be responsible for the main household income, or will you contribute equally? Will you share just one account or keep your banking separate? Who pays the bills each month? These questions are better dealt with up front, openly and honestly, so that you go into marriage understanding each other's spending and saving habits, with no surprises in the near future.
Psychology Today published an article about money stating that "commonly, a hoarder marries a spender". If this is true, we need to start talking to each other now about our personal habits and goals before our differences drive us apart. It seems there is no right or wrong way to handle your new family's finances. Here are some thoughts you can take or leave on the subject by various "experts" on finances for couples. Do what makes you both comfortable, just make sure you do something!
DaveRamsey.com wrote about the importance of communicating with your spouse (or soon-to-be spouse) about money. He says you can't have a great relationship until you can communicate and agree about money-matters. Seeing that in most relationships, one person is good at numbers while the other is a "free spirit", problems arise when the two neglect the input of each other in financial dealings. Dave also says that since marriage is a partnership, separating finances and splitting bills is a bad idea. Work on budgets together, and give feedback and encouragement.
Oprah had a show about relationships affected by money. One couple was facing relationship problems after cutting two salaries down to one when they became pregnant. Financial expert David Bach recommended that they write down their values and goals so that they could work to achieve them together. He also suggested that regardless of the lower income they were living on, portions of each paycheck should still be going to savings/retirement funds. A small emergency savings fund was also recommended for "just in case".
Another Oprah moment--check out Dr. Phil's Five Financial Strategies for Marriage.
Rightonthemoney.com has 4 easy steps for figuring out your finances together. Decide whether to have joint or separate accounts; Figure out who pays for what; Allow small indulgences but discuss big ticket buys; Keep money-matters private--don't discuss in front of others.
The same website also says to talk about money matters well before engagement, putting your finances and expectations on paper before you get married. They explain prenups and why you should consider one. There is a common conception that prenups mean you don't trust each other or that you are "planning for divorce". Not always true--Prenups also cover how to deal with debt, assets, property, and stocks in the case of death (or divorce). Prenups can also be ammended at any time. If you feel like a prenup is right for you, speak with a lawyer and be prepared to pay a few thousand for the attourney fees.
Whichever way you decide to handle your new family's finances, be sure that you are on the same page and that you are making conversations, not arguments. We don't all have the exact same values and goals, so respect each other's and find ways to compromise and work together toward them. Even if only one of you is great with numbers, you should both be involved in money decisions that affect your family unit. Get involved, have an opinion and show respect!