Getting Married? Don’t Forget to Talk Money First

Whether or not you merge your finances, you need to be on the same page.

Natalie and Dan Slagle
(Image credit: Photo by Jay Fram)

Natalie and Dan Slagle are founders of Fyooz Financial Planning, a financial planning firm that specializes in advising couples.

Kiplinger: What kind of money conversations should couples have before their wedding day?

Dan: One of the most important conversations to have concerns your upbringing around money and how you view it. I think that’s going to paint a better picture of what the future is going to look like in terms of how you view finances as a couple. There can be financial trauma that comes from your upbringing, whether it’s because your parents separated due to finances or you don’t have a good understanding of the basics of personal finance because they never talked about money. Working through those things together is important.

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Kiplinger: Should all new couples merge their finances?

Natalie: No, but all new couples need to talk about it. We don’t have a rule on whether to keep things separate or joint. If you decide to keep things separate, there still needs to be transparency.

Dan: Natalie and I sit down once a quarter to review our account balances and monthly cash flow and to discuss goals we want to accomplish in the near term. We go to a local coffee shop or out to brunch to discuss these items and follow it with an activity like a bike ride. Making this meeting enjoyable will help you approach money as a couple.

Kiplinger: Should couples open a credit card together?

Natalie: For clients who want to have all of their spending transactions in one place, we advise having credit cards in one partner’s name, with the other as an authorized user. The owner should be the spouse who is either responsible for paying off the card and/or has a good credit score. Being an authorized user on a spouse’s card affects both partners’ credit scores, so if you’re trying to build up one partner’s score, making on-time payments will help. But that requires a lot of trust because if one spouse runs up a lot of debt, it will hurt both spouses’ credit scores.

Kiplinger: Should all couples have a prenuptial agreement?

Natalie: It depends on your intentions when you decide to get married. There are no situations in which a couple absolutely must have a prenup, but there may be some situations in which it’s strongly recommended, such as when one partner’s family has wealth that will be passed from an elder generation to the younger generation and may impact that generation’s finances. In that case, it might make sense to sign a prenup or some sort of trust so that if the couple divorces, or that partner dies, there are rules in place to determine how much of their share of the family wealth will be transferred to the other spouse.

Kiplinger: How should couples that are planning a wedding budget divvy up expenses?

Natalie: Step one is understanding where the funds to pay for the wedding are going to come from. Couples often delay talking to family about contributing to wedding costs, but that’s going to impact how much you should be budgeting. If you’ve never had this conversation in the past, it can feel intrusive or needy. But sometimes it can be as simple as a yes or no question and being respectful with whatever response you get.

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Emma Patch
Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Emma Patch joined Kiplinger in 2020. She previously interned for Kiplinger's Retirement Report and before that, for a boutique investment firm in New York City. She served as editor-at-large and features editor for Middlebury College's student newspaper, The Campus. She specializes in travel, student debt and a number of other personal finance topics. Born in London, Emma grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Washington, D.C.