What financial conversations should my partner and I have before moving in together or getting married?
My experience talking about finances with my wife
Back in the early 90s when I was first seriously dating, the only thing I could think to ask my future wife was, “Do you love me?” At no time during the wooing process did we discuss money or finances at all. We had no money, jobs, or children and we both lived at home with our parents.
After we got married and had children and jobs, we started building a life together. But we still didn’t really talk about our finances. Even when we purchased our first home together, because I paid the bills and we qualified for the loan on my credit history and income, there were no financial discussions. At the same time, we did not have a lot of debt, we had a good credit rating, and we definitely did not have any student loans. Fast forward 30 years and we still rarely talk about the subject, but our finances are in great shape.
Debt is extremely common
Over the last 10 years, many people have taken on lots of debt, especially student loans. Americans have several different types of debt. Between credit card debt, mortgages, auto loans and student loans, the average debt per household is about $132,529. As of 2020, 1 in 4 Americans have student loan debt. An estimated 44.7 million people now owe more than $1.53 trillion in student loan debt. The average student loan debt amount is $37,172, with monthly payments of $393.
Money and love
Considering these compelling statistics and other financial factors such as income inequality, I suggest that all people in a relationship discuss finances. This is especially important if your finances are intertwined with your partner in any way. Financial issues, if left unresolved, can ruin even the most successful marriages. When a couple’s finances are not in order, it leaves both of them feeling insecure and can eventually lead the relationship into turmoil. This principle applies to unmarried couples and people in serious relationships alike. So when the relationship gets serious, discuss things like debt, credit, credit scores, and mutual financial goals together.
When I first got married, my wife and I did not discuss finances. But today I believe it’s important to discuss love and money in your relationship. These conversations, even when they are difficult, can help build trust and healthy communications with your partner. Being transparent about your financial situation will help you find long-term financial stability together.
Carl Windom is a Navy veteran, retired bank examiner, Accredited Financial Counselor, Financial Fitness Coach, and Personal Financial Counselor and Manager for the Department of Defense with over 30 years of experience. Growing up in New York City and witnessing poverty firsthand inspired him to learn more about money. Carl is passionate about giving back to his community with financial education so all people not only dream about a better financial future, but actually achieve that dream.