Money and Credit: The Talk Every Engaged Couple Should Have

/ BY / Personal Finance

Many parents never discuss subjects like credit with their children, so perhaps it's not too surprising that as those children grow into adulthood it's not a topic that they bring up with their intended as they plan for their married life.

A recent poll posted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 68 percent of respondents held negative attitudes towards discussing money with their fiancés. Of those respondents, 45 percent said that such a talk would be a necessary but awkward conversation; 11 percent said that such talks would reveal financial issues that they weren’t aware of; and five percent said that having such a discussion would cause them to call off the wedding.

Only about one third of those responding—32 percent—felt that talking about money would be an easy and productive conversation to have.

"It is telling that two people who intend to spend the rest of their lives together would see a conversation about money as so disconcerting," said Gail Cunningham, NFCC spokesperson. "The ability to have open and honest discussions is key to a successful marriage. Regardless of how difficult it may be, the conversation about personal finances is one that should neither be ignored nor postponed. As a matter of fact, to increase the odds of making 'happily-ever-after' a reality, the discussion should take place before the 'I do' and not after."

Couples need to decide many issues, such as how and if they’re going to share accounts, whether or not they’ll pay for things separately or from a joint account, and how much money each is going to have to spend at their own discretion.

Here are some suggestions from NFCC for that much-needed financial conversation:

  • Don’t spring the conversation on your partner. Instead, set a time to talk that is convenient for both of you.
  • Respect the fact that each of you has valid opinions and concerns.
  • Be honest about your current financial situation.
  • Talk about your long-held financial attitudes and recognize that they may be a result of your observations about how your parents addressed money issues.
  • Understand that one of you may be a saver and the other a spender. There are benefits to both approaches and you can learn from each other’s tendencies.
  • Don’t hide income or debt. This is known as financial infidelity. Instead, in the spirit of openness, bring all financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, existing debt obligations and investments to the table.
  • Don’t point the finger of blame. That’s a real conversation stopper.
  • If one of you have a financial skeleton in the closet—a very poor credit record or thousands of dollars in credit card debt, for example--make a plan now about how you’re going to deal with it.
  • Construct a budget that includes savings. Money’s often tight when you’re newly-married, and you may be tempted to delay savings. But when every cent counts, it is even more important to have a financial safety net in the form of savings
  • Decide who will be responsible for paying the monthly bills. One of you may be good at doing this while the other finds it burdensome.
  • Set some short-term and long-term financial goals. It’s appropriate to have individual goals, but having family goals is important, too.
  • Talk about loaning money to family members and friends. Decide if it’s something you’re comfortable with, or if it should be avoided.
  • Discuss caring for aging parents, and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs, if necessary.

“The fact of the matter is that people bring financial baggage into a relationship, but often don’t deal with it until problems arise. Baggage can come in the form of a poor credit rating, significant debt, or no experience managing money. Regardless of the issue, the time to address money differences is up front, before the financial bottom falls out. Court records show that financial stress is one of the main causes of divorce. Taking action now could prevent a disaster later,” continued Cunningham.

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Please note your financial situation is unique and our tips & advice presented here may not be appropriate for your situation. recommends that you seek different advice & opinions from your own accountant or financial adviser who understands your individual circumstances before making any important decisions or implementing any financial strategy.