The tradition of June weddings can be traced back to Ancient Rome where it was considered good luck to be married in the month honoring Juno, the goddess of marriage.
Today couples often spend months or even years planning for their big day. Unfortunately, few will take that much time to discuss their financial lives together. Arguments and misunderstandings over money—or the lack thereof—is often cited as the number one reason for divorce. Those misunderstandings often represent a difference in values and perceptions about spending and saving behaviors.
Debt brought into a marriage is among the top three problems for couples in their first five years of marriage, according to a 2000 survey by the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
An earlier study by the Association of Bridal Consultants found that more than 67% of couples said the most serious conflict in their first year of marriage was related to differences in spending habits. Most experts advise couples considering marriage to fully disclose their financial situations before the wedding day. But it doesn’t end there. It’s important to continue talking about the family’s financial health and well-being throughout the marriage.
Most of us don’t even think of money, spending habits, or debt levels when we decide to start a new life with someone. We are too much in love and believe that love conquers all. But differences in how we view money can become a lingering problem.
The Money Mindset
As a general rule, our money mindset is even more important than how much money we earn. People can disagree about spending, savings, and other money habits regardless of how much or how little they have.
Our money mindsets develop during childhood. If talk of family finances was taboo, we are probably uncomfortable discussing money. If money was used as a reward for good behavior, we may feel hurt or neglected when our spouse has a different perspective or when we’re living on a limited budget.
Talking about money with our significant other will uncover potential hot spots and will develop an understanding and respect for how each of us feels about our personal finances. It can also help us adjust our behaviors to make life with our mate more comfortable.
- How do you handle your income?
- Will you have separate or shared checking and credit card accounts?
- Who will have the primary responsibility for paying monthly bills?
- What are your combined savings and investing goals?
- What are your expectations about spending money?
- What debt are you taking into the marriage?
- How much debt are you comfortable sharing?
- What is your credit rating as you enter into the marriage?
- How much and what kinds of insurance do you have or need?
- Can you trust your partner with your money?
Taking the time to discuss financial matters before making a commitment is an important step in preparing for life together.
Sue Lynn Sasser, PhD, is an associate professor of economics at the University of Central Oklahoma. In addition, Dr. Sasser serves as executive director of the Oklahoma Council on Economic Education and director of the UCO Center for Economic Education. She is past president of the Oklahoma JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. She lives in Edmond, with her dog Lily.