4 Conversations You Must Have About Money Before You Get Married

money couple

You're a penny pincher and he can't wait to spend—should you think twice before saying "I do?"

As you read this, you may have stars in your eyes because you are heading toward the altar; however, what you don't have is a crystal ball that tells you what challenges lie ahead in your marital future. Do you really know this person you are promising to love for better or for worse?

If you and your partner are preparing for marriage, it is essential to make time now to get practical with one another if you want to avoid constant bickering about money.

When I first met and married my ex-husband, Bernard, I was impressed by his charm and charisma. He was a born salesman who sold me on joining my life to his, assuring me that he was on the road to success and riches. Because of his winning personality he had no trouble finding jobs; he just had trouble keeping them! During the seven years we were together, our life was a financial merry-go-round. Our marriage went bust when a get-rich-quick swindler tricked him. We were forced to declare bankruptcy, and I ended up with two small children living on food stamps, since he rarely paid child support.

For years I wondered how an intelligent woman like me from a stable family could get myself mixed up with such a scoundrel. I vowed to never be in that compromised position again. Today I specialize in treating compulsive spenders and debtors and have learned what causes them to harm themselves and those they love due to their inability to handle money effectively. Find out more in my book, Born To Spend.

I would hate for you to make the same disastrous mistakes I did. I hope that you will benefit from these 4 Money Tips that will empower you to move forward as a couple with your eyes open so you can live "happily ever after" with financial stability.

1. Put It All Out There, Honestly

How long have you known each other or lived with each other? What have you observed about your honey’s use or abuse of money? Share your financial history with each other. What is your job history? Do both of you have steady employment at this time? How much do you earn? Do you and your intended live within your means, pay your bills on time, and have investments or savings for the future? Once you are legally bound together his or her debts will be yours, too! If you have moments of concern as you learn these financial details pay attention to them. 

Although the financial counselor that my husband and I worked with made us turn all our credit cards over to him, my husband had memorized the numbers and went on a monumental spending spree that ruined us financially, ended our marriage, and destroyed my credit for many years. If your lover gives lots of excuses or rationalizations for irresponsible expenditures or money decisions consider this a red flag. Imagine what your life together will be like in ten years if the negative patterns continue.

When you allow yourself to be honest about your reactions to your partner’s attitudes or behaviors around money you may find things that please you and some that may shock or anger you. It is very easy to use your credit cards or visit the ATM without giving it a thought, or splurge when a store is having a tempting sale and you throw caution to the winds. Is there a worrisome pattern here? Don’t sweep your doubts away! Bring them out into the open and deal with them before it is too late.

2. Take A Walk Through Your Past

What your early caretakers told you about money and how they handled money left their mark on you. Make time with your future spouse to discuss the following questions together to discover what makes you use money wisely or abuse it. Some of us simply continue to do what our parents did. Others make new decisions and do the opposite of mom or dad. Do those choices help or hurt you today? Take lots of time to talk about these questions together: 

  • What economic group did your family belong to?
  • Who was the main wage earner in your family?
  • Did both parents work? Describe their job, wages and attitudes about working.
  • What kind of work did your grandparents do? Were they successful?
  • Did your parents invest or save well?
  • Did your parents use credit cards or incur debt? How so?
  • Did you get an allowance?
  • When did you get your first job?
  • As you grew up, how did you think your financial needs would be met when you were an adult?

3. Uncover Negative Programming

You and your future spouse’s financial activities and beliefs about money, success, work, or security are the result of decisions you made about yourself that were shaped by your upbringing. Unfortunately some of the decisions, programmed in your unconscious mind, may keep you from achieving financial happiness. For example, my client, Gary, was unsuccessful in work and love because he was living out a “I'm a loser” script and didn’t even know it.

Gary was a 28-year-old student who always started a new job with high hopes. He rationalized that the new job and steady income meant that he could treat himself to a new car or better place to live. Yet, he immediately began to get into debt. Before long, the bill collectors were knocking at the door and their relentless phone calls began.

Gary didn’t mind being harassed, but his fiancée felt very nervous and frightened. She had never experienced this kind of lifestyle and couldn’t understand why Gary wasn’t upset, until he shared that his father was an unsuccessful businessman, and sometimes couldn’t pay his bills. Gary remembered that when he was growing up creditors pressured his parents all the time! This was a familiar way of life for him, and he unconsciously recreated it. Unfortunately, his fiancée got tired of waiting for Gary to change his financial ways and broke up with him.

Here are some examples of other "negative programming" beliefs that poison the financial lives of some of my clients:

  • Rich people are mean
  • Poor people are the salt of the earth
  • People like us “make do”
  • Men make the money, women don’t work for the money
  • If you have a nickel, spend a dime
  • If you don’t spend a lot for it, it isn’t worth much
  • Self-employment is too risky; work for someone else
  • Money defines your worth.

So, what negative ideas have you and your future spouse internalized as a result of your family, society and early life experiences taught you about money, saving, spending, charging, or debt? Challenge those messages you received if you no longer want to make come true.

4. Grow up!

Help shift stuck mindsets around money by playing this game called “Mom said. . . Dad said. ...“ with your partner. Think about the adults who had the most influence on you. You may remember what your caregivers actually told you about each topic, but if not, try to remember their actions. The old adage, “Actions speak louder than words” is often the case.

  • What did Mom tell you about_____? Making money, spending money, saving money, Buying on Credit
  • What did Dad tell you about_____? Making money, Spending money, Saving money, Buying on Credit
  • Mom said I would grow up:  to be...   to do...   to have...
  • Dad said I would grow up:   to be...   to do...   to have...

Is there someone you were named after or who you were told you took after? Are you supposed to have a life like that person? Is it supposed to be a comedy, a tragedy or something else? Tell each other which messages have messed up your financial life and which have enriched it. Make a joint list of all the positive values the two of you have decided to live by as you go through life together. Hang this list up in a prominent place in your home and refer to it daily.

Take advantage of a free phone consult with Gloria to discuss your financial issues. Download her FREE eBook Creating Happiness that contains a chapter from Born To Spend.