As we get older, we realize that relationships are complicated and that loving someone isn’t enough to build a future on. We have to ask the difficult questions around whether they want kids, do they want to get married, where they want to live, or how do they feel about dogs? In every relationship, there are â€œdeal-breakerâ€ questions that we have to ask and hope we can work out. Even with the difficult questions, most of us are still missing one of the key topics to having a healthy and stable relationship: finances.
Dr. Taffy Wagner (a fellow Weddzilla blogger) has just released a book on this very topic, Bride and Groom Money Talk FAQ. She has been teaching seminars on finances and counseling those with financial marital problems for years. With a husband of 15 years and twin 9 year olds, she offers not only knowledge, but personal experience. I was lucky enough to get to some time with her to hear more about this important topic.
She wrote this book to reach more of us who haven’t had this important conversation and give us the tools to do it. By the way, lesson 1: make it a conversation, not a confrontation. Although Taffy was very open with me about her own financial mistakes (bankruptcy, creditors, debt, eviction), she said that it was the hardest thing for her to talk to her husband about, even though he had already shared his financially challenged history. It’s a hard topic for all of us, as we feel embarrassed about our mistakes and vulnerable exposing them. I remember when I was still learning how to balance my bank account and had some withdrawal charges hit my account. I felt humiliated talking to A. about it, but I did to keep things honest between us. Taffy assured me it gets easier, and starting is the hardest part.
Taffy recommends starting these conversations today — don’t wait. If you’re building a future with someone, you need to let them know about any black marks on your credit. Bad credit will come up if you want to buy a house or make any other significant purchases, and it’s better you address them than have them be a surprise. Your financial history and baggage will affect your spouse, so it’s important to be upfront and honest. It’s also a good habit to get into. Taffy told me her goal is to get couples talking about it as early as possible. If you start talking when you’re engaged, you’ll continue the conversation through marriage. She emphasized that we shouldn’t feel ashamed in these conversations; it’s a chance to be honest and vulnerable with each other: talk it out, cry it out, work through it together.
I told Taffy that my fiancÃ© and I have independent bank accounts, and while I’m open to sharing one for expenses, I still want my own. She told me I’m off to a good start. Two very important things for couples to keep in mind with finances is making sure you both are establishing credit and are respecting each other’s value systems.
If all your accounts and property are in one person’s name, then they’re building credit, and you’re not. However, if one of you has poor credit, it may be necessary to put a mortgage in the other’s name to get a better rate. You can’t help things like this, but you should work toward building you own credit, because you may need it in the future. Related to this, Taffy also says that both of you should understand how the bills are paid and how your finances are handled. She’s known unfortunate individuals who suddenly were in charge of their finances and had no idea where to start. Make sure you’re informed.
The reason I want to maintain my own bank account is that I realized shortly after we started sharing finances that we like to spend our money on different things, and those things don’t always appear worthwhile to the other. Having our own bank accounts helps keep peace. We can talk finances, but we’re not scrutinizing every little purchase the other one makes. Taffy agrees with this completely, saying you need to respect each other’s priorities. You do need to make sure you’re both being financially responsible, but you shouldn’t have to have every small purchase scrutinized by the other. She said that whenever an issue with money arises (or really any aspect of your relationship), you should both have a chance to state your point of view and then meet in the middle. Respect your individuality while keeping an eye on the big picture.
If you haven’t had this talk yet, take some time and start the conversation. It’ll get easier the more you do it. And Taffy wants us to remember, â€œIt’s a journey, there will be bumps, talk through it and don’t blame each other. You chose each other, you can make it. Do it together, you’re a team!â€
Get your copy of Bride and Groom Money Talk FAQ through her site at www.brideandgroommoneytalk.com, and don’t forget to check out Dr. Taffy Wagner’s posts on Weddzilla for more handy tips on not letting money manage your relationship.