Money Conversations You Should Have Before Marriage

Kiplinger.com contributing editor and NFL linebacker Brandon Copeland has Valentine's Day (and beyond) advice for couples who want to improve their financial dynamics for a healthier relationship.

Courtesy of Rian Watkins

"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby with the baby carriage. That's not all,that's not all."

What's up, everybody? This is Brandon Copeland, a/k/a Professor Cope, NFL linebacker, contributing editor for Kiplinger. And this is another episode of Cope'ing With Money.

See All of Brandon Copeland's Cope'ing With Money Features on Kiplinger.com.

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It's February. It's the month of love, Valentine's Day. Ooh ... Hey, hey, get that out your mind. That's not what we talking about here.

With love comes marriage, and marriage is a beautiful, beautiful thing. But, what a lot of people forget to talk about is there is a business to marriage, in the midst of all the cuddling and kissing and hugging.

Sometimes you forget to talk about that business. So, I wanted to give you all some tips on things you should definitely discuss with your partner prior to being married.

Talking about money can be a tough conversation to have in general, but it can be a little bit tougher when you're talking with your spouse about it as well. So I suggest you break this conversation down into digestible chunks.

Aligning Your Financial Goals

The first thing we need to get on the same page with is: making sure our financial goals are aligned. Or, we're at least aware of each other's financial goals.

If I want a 25-bedroom, 12-bathroom house; however, my wife is happy living in a trailer, we need to find some sort of common ground going in the marriage so that our spending habits jointly can help us reach that comfort zone for both of us.

Within the financial goal conversation will come a number of different topics of discussion. For example, children. Do you plan on putting your children through public school, private school? Do we plan to pay for their marriage or their honeymoon? Do we want to put them through college entirely, or just give them a sizeable head start?

These are all things that you want to be on the same page about, so that you can both work toward them together.

During a marriage, resentment can fester if one partner is working harder toward these goals than the other. So we want to have these conversations beforehand.

What's Your Joint Investment Plan?

Another topic is your investment plan. Does one partner plan on managing all the finances? Or is this a joint conversation every time a financial move is made for your future? Are your risk tolerances the same? Is one of you more conservative, while the other is closer to a gambler? We should just align on these things prior to entering holy matrimony.

If you don't know this already, when you get married, you tend to share everything: share bathrooms, beds. You also share your credit and debt situations as well. Getting one, three, five years in the marriage and finding out you can't afford the home that you want because of your spouse's credit doesn't make for a healthy conversation around the dinner table.

Laying all of this information out, then figuring out how you want to attack these things together, can help you all make the best business plan for you and your marriage.

How Will the Bills Be Paid?

The next thing you want to discuss are bank accounts and bill pay. Do we plan on keeping all of our bank accounts separate? Combining them into one or two joint accounts? Or a mixture?

How do we plan to attack our bills? When we go to dinner, is it 50/50? Are we going 25/75? Am I swiping my card? "I saw you order that extra drink, and you know it's not free refills."

Again, we just want to be on the same page with these things to avoid stress, confusion, and negative energy later on in our marriage.

These are just a few of the topics you should be discussing with your spouse-to-be. But: Married folks, I don't want you to think that you are barred from these conversations. You can still sit down and talk through these things to be better aligned financially.

I want to wish everybody a very happy Valentine's Day. For those of you who are on the cusp of getting married, congratulations to you.

For those of you who are having these conversations and decide to call it off: Sorry, that's just how it is. This is life. This is

Cope'ing With Money. I really, really appreciate you. I also want to say for those of you who thought that this was going to be a nasty Valentine's Day video ... Shame on you.

Brandon Copeland
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger.com

Brandon Copeland, an active, eight-year veteran NFL linebacker, has spent the past two years teaching a class he created, and nicknamed “Life 101,” at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. Life 101 focuses on life’s constant money decisions so that students are better prepared for the financial realities that adulthood brings. Copeland also spends time off of the field consulting and investing in real estate. He is the co-founder of a nonprofit organization, Beyond the Basics Inc., and was the recipient of the 2020 NFLPA Alan Page Community Award, the NFLPA’s highest honor given for extraordinary dedication to service, social justice and equality. He is a member of CNBC’s Financial Wellness Council and the NFL Players Inc. Advisory Committee. Copeland has interned for UBS and Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers.