Successful marriages thrive on love, respect, and shared values. But they’re also built on something equally important: a foundation of financial transparency.
Marriage and money go hand in hand.
Statistics show that couples who can openly (and lovingly!) talk about their finances are more likely to stay together. Conversely, couples who avoid discussing money are not only more stressed, but they’re far more likely to get divorced.
The question is: how much should you save before you tie the knot? While we’ll discuss the details below, here’s some good news in the meantime:
You don’t need to be wealthy to get married—far from it! Instead, you and your significant other simply need to have an honest dialogue about your income, your budget, and everything in between.
When it comes to marriage, an abundance of honesty always outweighs a surfeit of riches. Whether you’re recently engaged, are approaching your wedding day, or are considering marriage, here are some marriage finance tips to consider as you prepare for the next chapter of your life.
How Much You Should Save: Explained
Marriage is one of the oldest institutions and has thrived in countless societies around the world. And while marriage is a mainstay of civilization, it’s different with every generation. For example, in 1960, the average couple got married at the age of 22—straight out of college!
Today, however, the average marrying age is closer to 28. When people married in 1960, they did so with far less money than those who marry today.
The point is, there’s no one “right” way to get married. Likewise, there’s no “right” amount of money to have in the bank before walking down the aisle.
Nevertheless, modern financial experts do encourage spouses to each have one year’s salary in savings. For example, if you earn $60,000 a year, conventional wisdom suggests having the same amount in the bank before exchanging rings and saying, “I do.”
Note: This figure includes your cash savings, your assets, and any money in retirement and brokerage accounts.
Then again, having one year’s salary in savings is the ideal situation. And for most Americans, the ideal simply isn’t practical. In fact, 86% of couples that have been married for less than five years started off in debt.
Whether you’re married or single, debt is a part of life and should not be a reason to avoid marriage. Instead, it should be a source of encouragement to have an open conversation about money between you and your spouse.
After all, debt itself isn’t the problem. Undisclosed debts are the true threat to enduring relationships.
Part 1: Have “The Money Talk”
As you undoubtedly know, communication is essential in romantic relationships.
If you and your partner have already talked about finances, you’re off to a great start. If you haven’t done so, now is the perfect time to start. Grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine!), and kick off the conversation.
In the early stages of the “money talk,” the goal is simply to tell your partner where you stand, financially. Go over the basics, including your monthly salary, your budget and spending habits, and any outstanding debts you might have (like student loans and credit cards). It’s okay to start with a general outline and get more specific down the line.
Just remember: if you’re honest today, you won’t have to hide anything tomorrow.
Part 2: Define Your Goals (Together)
After you establish your current financial situation, take time to discuss your long-term goals.
- What does your vision of the future look like?
- How does your partner see it?
- Where do you align, and how do you differ?
While money consists of numbers, purchases are driven by intangibles like personality traits and lifestyle choices. For example, maybe you enjoy some retail therapy while your significant other is rather thrifty. Maybe your partner expects to vacation twice a year, while you would rather save the money for a mortgage. Maybe you have long-term career ambitions, while your partner prefers to work part-time.
However you slice it, financial habits are an extension of internal desires. In most cases, our financial viewpoints are heavily influenced by our culture, our family, and our initial exposure to money.
Ultimately, talking about finances can be deeply personal, so try to be patient with one another as you unpack your perspectives and define your goals.
To help you get the ball rolling, consider asking questions like:
- Where are we going to live?
- Do we intend to buy a home?
- Do we want to have children?
- Will we rely on one or two incomes?
- Which debts will we pay down first?
- How much can we save each month?
- How much should we save for retirement?
Ultimately, these questions will help you determine your financial compatibility before you get married. While you’re not looking for total agreement, you are looking for total transparency.
Once you know where you stand, you’ll be able to make compromises that promote your individual and collective wellbeing.
Note: If you’re a recent immigrant and plan to support your loved ones back home, make sure to include that in the conversation. Let your spouse know how much you intend to send to your family, and how frequently you will do so.
Part 3: Quick Tips to Consider
You and your significant other are a team.
With the right strategy (and a bit of patience), you’ll be able to consistently achieve your short and long-term goals.
To help you get started, consider implementing these three quick tips into your financial arsenal:
1. Create a Budget
Whether you’re married or single, a budget is the most reliable financial tool you can use.
Look at it this way: if you and your spouse can confidently control how much you spend every month, you’ll be practically unstoppable.
The best part is, you can now build a budget right on your smartphone or tablet.
2. Tackle Major Debts
Debt is a part of life.
That’s true whether it comes in the form of credit cards, student loans, or medical bills. In 2021, for example, the average credit card balance was a whopping $5,221.
If you or your partner have debts, you’re not alone.
Fortunately, paying down major debts is the fastest way to financial freedom. Once you get out of the red, you’ll be able to start fulfilling your most cherished goals.
Set your sights on your largest debts, pick a strategy to pay them off, and stick to it.
If you can start this process before you get married, that’s even better!
3. Build an Emergency Fund
Okay, so maybe saving up an entire year’s salary isn’t feasible before your wedding day.
That’s okay. In fact, over 56% of Americans can’t cover a $1,000 bill with money from savings.
As you and your spouse approach marriage, be sure to budget for an emergency fund.
Maybe you start with a goal of saving up for just three months of living expenses. Maybe you aim for six. Or better yet, maybe you do attempt to put twelve months of money in the bank.
Whatever approach you choose, know that every dollar in an emergency fund will come in handy during a rainy day. And until then, you and your spouse will have more confidence knowing your future is secure.
One More Thing!
Unlike common investment plans, these tips aren’t simple “set it and forget it” strategies. Instead, they’re meant to be actively practiced through all seasons of life.
Don’t wait to talk about finances until times get tough. Rather, keep the conversation going year round. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
And to spice things up, you might even turn the occasional date night into a financial deep dive.
Ultimately, while secrets promote stress and avoidance increases anxiety, consistency creates calm—especially in marriages, and especially when it comes to money.
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