Discussing Finances as Newlyweds
By: Jared Hawkins, Extension Assistant Professor
February 7, 2022
Financial disagreements are a stronger predictor of divorce than other common marital disagreements (Dew et al. 2012). This may be because people think about, use, or worry about money every day, and money is closely tied to deeper couple issues, such as boundaries, trust, commitment, and power (Shapiro, 2007; Stanley & Einhorn, 2007). Fortunately, a strong foundation of communication can prevent the negative consequences of financial disagreements. How can newlyweds establish this strong foundation from the beginning?
Develop UnderstandingBefore diving into your financial goals, discuss some of the underlying feelings you both have about money. Most people’s attitudes and behaviors related to money are tied to deeply held values, but most couples do not talk about these values, instead focusing on surface-level financial issues (Dew et al., 2012; Shapiro, 2007). As you have financial discussions, it is important to consider your partner’s backgrounds, values, and fears related to money. To deepen your understanding and gain a respect for your partner’s feelings about money, you may consider discussing questions, such as:
- How was money used and discussed in your family?
- What are some of the most important experiences you’ve had with money?
- What are your biggest financial fears?
- What are your financial goals/dreams?
Set GoalsAlong with trust and an understanding of values, establishing mutual goals can unite you as a couple in your financial decisions. It may be helpful to organize your goals into short-term, middle-term, and long-term. You may consider discussing questions, such as:
- Do you want children? If so, how many, and when?
- Do you want to go on any trips in the near future?
- Do you have other large upcoming expenses, such as buying a car?
- Do you want to buy a house? If so, when?
- When would you like to retire?
Make PlansAfter establishing shared goals, you can discuss together how to reach your goals, including how you will reduce debt and how much you’ll need to set aside for savings. Many financial advisors recommend trying to save 15% of your income and to build an emergency fund enough to cover 3-6 months of your living expenses. As you decide on your savings, you may consider allocating discretionary dollars for each spouse to spend as they see fit. Since it is common to disagree about how money should be spent, this could help you avoid arguing about little things.
After making plans to meet short-term goals, consider how you will save for longer-term purchases and retirement. As easy as it is to put off long-term savings, putting at least a small amount toward retirement can help you take advantage of compound interest. Lastly, you may want to discuss other relevant financial issues, such as insurance, estate plans, and taxes. For financial advice unique to your situation, consider meeting with a credible financial professional.
Define RolesOne major topic associated with your plans to reach financial goals is dividing financial responsibilities. You may consider discussing these questions:
- Do you have gender-related expectations about financial responsibilities?
- If you plan to have children, how will you divide work and caretaking responsibilities?
- Who will pay the bills?
- How will you handle day-to-day expenses and large purchases? For example, would you like to communicate with each other before making a purchase over an established dollar amount?
- Will you jointly share or separate your financial assets? Will you combine or separate financial accounts? (There are pros and cons to both approaches.)
Financial disagreements are inevitable, but with shared goals, realistic plans, and an understanding of your partner’s financial values, you can communicate about your disagreements in a way that bonds you, rather than separates you.
- Dew, J., Britt, S., & Huston, S. (2012). Examining the relationship between financial issues and divorce. Family Relations, 61(4), 615-628.
- Shapiro, M. (2007). Money: A therapeutic tool for couples therapy. Family Process, 46(3), 279-291.
- Stanley, S. M., & Einhorn, L. A. (2007). Hitting Pay Dirt: Comment on" Money: A Therapeutic Tool for Couples Therapy". Family Process, 46(3), 293.