Money and marriage: A prenuptial financial discussion checklist

Published: Monday, March 25, 2019 @ 4:24 PM

Before you walk down the aisle, are you willing to have a frank discussion about money and marriage with your potential spouse?

Don’t worry: We’ve got a cheat sheet to get you started on this very important prenuptial talk!

RELATED: Clark Howard: How my daughter saved a ton of money on her wedding

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What you need to know about money and marriage before tying the knot

According to a recent SunTrust Bank survey of some 2,000 adults, 88% of respondents said it’s important to have money discussions with your potential spouse before getting married. Yet only 51% actually have that conversation before saying “I do.”

So, right off the bat, you have about half of people willfully not doing something that nearly nine out of ten people say is important for a healthy and happy union.

Furthermore, only 41% of respondents shared their annual salary with their intended. Fewer people still — 36% — were willing to fess up about their debt before tying the knot.

Here’s what to discuss with your spouse-to-be

We all know discussions about money can be difficult. But with a little preplanning and understanding of the important points to hit, the “money talk” can go a lot easier!

Money expert Clark Howard says these kinds of conversations shouldn’t start with a dollars-and-cents accounting of your individual finances. Rather, they should begin with a joint discussion around shared dreams for your life together.

Ask questions of each other like these:

  • What do you want out of life?
  • When do you want to be able to quit working and see the world together?

“It should be like, ‘Hey, this is where I want go in life. What are your dreams?’ Lay out your goals and see where they intersect,” Clark says. “Otherwise, it’s like starting out on a road trip and not having a destination in mind.”

Remember, resist the urge to dive right into the finance talk at all costs!

“If conversation starts out all about money, it’s like starting out saying, ‘OK, I know I have to eat my spinach,’ But very quickly, it becomes, ‘Well, why do I want to eat my spinach?'”

As Clark notes, it’s easier to get to the harder stuff if you start with positive and aspirational kinds of questions like the ones listed above.

Once you’re past this initial stage of the conversation, you’re ready to get a sense of what kinds of assets and liabilities each of you are entering the marriage with. Make sure you’re honest and open about these points:

Assets

  • Saving accounts
  • Checking accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Real estate

Liabilities

  • Student loans
  • Credit cards
  • Vehicle loans

Important questions to ask:

Clark’s take

Clark says that couples should have a clear understanding with each other about financial priorities.

“No one person should feel like all the decision-making power sits with just the other party. It should be shared,” the money expert says. “For the long-term health of the relationship and for positive communication, you have to sit down and have a conversation.”

Clark says in a relationship where finances are shared, each person should have the equivalent of an allowance.

“It should be a predetermined amount of money that you and your partner are free to spend without having to seek approval from each other,” the consumer expert advises.

“That way you create trust and no one can judge you for buying new shoes (or whatever it is) as long as the purchase price comes under that threshold.”

Final thought

Open communication is key, and regular conversations about financial issues — no matter how difficult — are important.

Use this printable checklist to get the conversation started:

Before you plan the big day, be sure to check out Clark Howard’s guide to saving money on your wedding!