Money & Marriage

Financial well-being June 1, 2016 By First United Bank

Money & Marriage - Combining Finances is a Decision Worth Making Together

As “wedding season” rapidly approaches, thousands of couples are spending lots of time and thousands of dollars researching and planning their weddings. In fact, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $30,433 (, and that doesn’t include the honeymoon. Before you and your significant other spend exorbitant amounts of money to celebrate your union, schedule some time together to discuss one of the most important parts of your lives together—your finances. (If you’re already married, please keep reading—you just might learn something, too!)

It may sound a little old-fashioned, but it has worked for us for 16 years: After you’re married, dispel of the notion of “his money” and “her money.” There is now only “our money.” After you each say “I do,” and the preacher says something to the effect of “you are now one,” everyone’s paychecks get deposited into the same account.

Please also note that we said “after you’re married … ” During the engagement, neither of you want to think about anything other than marital bliss, but sometimes things just don’t work out. Even if you’ve been living together for a while, I recommend you combine finances after you are married.

Having said that, let’s discuss what the two of you need to talk about. We recommend scheduling an hour-long appointment with your partner to talk about money. Put it on the calendar, and agree to the time limit. Also, schedule an activity to do together when you’re done, so you have somewhere to be at a certain time and therefore a hard stopping point.

The goal of this discussion should be for each of you to get an idea of what the other considers “normal” when it comes to money. Most of us have a hard time defining our normal because we don’t really ever think about it, and we probably have very little with which to compare it. Understand that each person makes decisions based on what their normal is and that we very seldom think outside of that normal. Until we marry someone who thinks our normal is strange. Don’t be offended, though, because you probably think their normal is strange, too.

However, when “normal” and “strange” occur, struggles can set in. And, while that first post-marital fight is sure to happen, neither of you wants it to be over something preventable. That is why you are having this discussion in the first place.

Below are some of the topics we suggest you cover. (This is by no means an exhaustive list.) Tailor them to your individual situation:

  • How much money do you earn?
  • Do you have a retirement account? If so, do you contribute to it regularly?
  • What is your philosophy about debt?
  • How much debt do you have?
  • How many credit cards do you have?
  • Do you have a car loan or lease?
  • Do you have student loans?
  • Have you ever filed bankruptcy? If so, why?
  • Have you ever owed someone money and not paid them?
  • What is your credit score? (If you don’t know, use a free resource like to find out.)
  • Do you pay or owe child support or alimony, or are your wages garnished?
  • When was the last time you balanced your checkbook?
  • Do you maintain a written budget?

This should be enough to get a conversation started between the two of you. It should also give each of you some insight into the person you are signing up to spend the rest of your life with. If anything you learn gives either of you pause or reason to reconsider your decision to get married, slow down and remember that if each of you is willing to enter the marriage with an open mind, there is no reason you cannot create a new normal together.

Over the years we have learned that money changes relationships. If your relationship is to stand up to the test of time, you must have some non-negotiables in place regarding money.

Agree before the purchase is made or don't spend the money. If one has to convince the other too strongly, step back and don’t make a heat-of-the-moment decision that will change the course of your finances and relationship for an extended period of time.

For those of you who are looking forward to tying the knot, schedule a time with your sweetie to discuss how you each view money. We have no doubt you will learn valuable information about each other, and your marriage will benefit as a result.

By First United Bank