Reader Question: Should You Talk About Finances Before Getting Engaged?

Reader Question: Should You Talk About Finances Before Getting Engaged?

Last night, I had a reader contact me and ask a very poignant question. He asked if his family member should discuss finances with her potential future husband before getting engaged. She didn’t think it was necessary until after engagement, and he said they should discuss “money, budgets, life goals, etc. now and not wait until a ring is exchanged.”

I totally agreed.

Finances Before Getting Engaged

My Response

Here was my response to him:

Sorry to hear about that.

My wife and I discussed money while dating, and I believe it’s important to go over details of one’s financial situation, plans for the future, priorities in life and short and long term goals BEFORE getting engaged.

Engagement is just there for planning the marriage, so you shouldn’t say “YES” to someone who hasn’t fully disclosed who they are totally. And that includes finances.

I would say you should NOT combine finances before marriage, but absolutely discuss them. The telling question would be “Why not”?

If there’s something to hide, or if she’s embarrassed, she can show how mature he is in talking about all of these details now. If she can’t talk about it now, I don’t think she is emotionally ready for the HUGE commitment that marriage is.

I apologize if that comes off harsh, it’s certainly not meant to be. I just know that when I was in a bad financial place, I was DEFINITELY not mature enough to handle marriage. Having been married over 5 years, I can say that ANYTHING kept secret before marriage becomes a WAY bigger deal afterwards.

Thanks for reaching out, I hope I was of some help. Let me know if you have any further questions at all.

Jake
www.iheartbudgets.net

What Are Your Thoughts?

Since we are all different people with many different views on life, I’d like to know your thoughts on this situation? Do you think they should be talking about money before they take the next step toward marriage?

And I want to know from you engaged and married folk what you ACTUALLY DID before getting engaged. Did you go into ALL THE NITTY GRITTY of your finances, or just a general overview….or maybe nothing at all?!

I’d love to hear from you all! I’ll be putting the best responses into this post :)

Awesome Reader Comments

Well Heeled Blog:

A New York Times article that there are 4 categories of questions all serious couples should ask each other. I’m paraphrasing:

1. How has your family / financial past affect the way you think about money?
2. What is your credit score / credit history?
3. Who has the control of bills / investing on a day-to-day and long-term basis? How do we share that control if that’s what we want?
4. How rich/affluent do we want to be? What kind of career sacrifices or risks much one or both of us undertake to achieve that desired level of affluence?

Writing 2 Reality:

Absolutely this should be discussed. As a currently engaged individual I would have never considered proposing to my fiancée if we hadn’t discussed and been on the same page financially. In fact, we weren’t on the same page as we both have very different views on investing and saving for the future. She is extremely conservative (invest in savings accounts and CDs only), while I am investment driven (P2P lending, stocks, real estate). Prior to moving forward in our relationship we specifically discussed and worked out our differences in a manner that both of us could work with and be happy. Not worth the future battles if that wasn’t the case.

Emily from Evolving PF:

I don’t think we necessarily showed one another our Mint accounts, but he knew about the debt I was paying off and I knew he was living below his means enough to be piling up savings. You can discern a lot about someone’s finances between knowing their income (which we did – we showed one another our offer letters when we got into grad school) and seeing how they live. For us, it was very organic, but very thorough. We didn’t mock up a joint budget until we were engaged, though.

Kurt from Money Counselor:

My future wife showed me her unbalanced and undecipherable checkbook on our first date! :)

iHB note: I don’t recommend this strategy for picking up a spouse, but it seems to have worked on Kurt ;)

Tarnykay:

I really believe that both parties should be completely transparent about finances before getting engaged, show each other bills, budgets, accounts balances, debt, credit scores, etc. It would be a really good idea to go to a financial planner or counselor as part of this, someone who will sit them down and have them talk through what money means to them, what their financial goals are, how things will change if and/or when they have kids, just everything. You can’t have too much information before deciding to commit your entire life to another person!

And the conversation continued on Twitter as well:

Keep on sharing this is great stuff here!

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Comments

  1. Talk about it before engagement (or at the very least, before marriage). It’s a series of conversations, though, not just one Big This Is Our Finance Discussion Where What You Say Will Be Held Against You For Life. I once read in a New York Times article that there are 4 categories of questions all serious couples should ask each other. I’m paraphrasing:

    1. How has your family / financial past affect the way you think about money?
    2. What is your credit score / credit history?
    3. Who has the control of bills / investing on a day-to-day and long-term basis? How do we share that control if that’s what we want?
    4. How rich/affluent do we want to be? What kind of career sacrifices or risks much one or both of us undertake to achieve that desired level of affluence?

    All of these questions are ones I think my husband and I should have talked about (and we dated for 8 years before getting engaged). We are talking about them now, though, so if you don’t get to this talk before engagement or marriage, all is not lost! :)
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..6 Days in London: A Recap of My Scone-Filled AdventureMy Profile

    • Great summary. Adding tot the post in a little bit.

      And agreed, all is not lost if you don’t, but if you’re not married yet, major headaches will be avoided talking about these things ahead of time. :)

  2. I absolutely think you need to talk about money before getting engaged. It’s an ongoing conversation that’s a HUGE part of living your lives together. As you wrote, if you can’t talk about money then there are some issues in the relationship that need to be ironed out before you make that commitment. It might not be easy, and it definitely won’t be resolved all in one conversation, but you’re going to have to deal with it at some point. It’s much better to find out whether you can work together financially BEFORE making the commitment than AFTER. Waiting to talk about money is one of the biggest reasons marriages fall apart.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Make Your Money Grow Faster: Investing Better vs. Earning MoreMy Profile

  3. We talked about money before we were engaged. This was mainly because we started combining our finances before then. Before we got engaged, we had a pre-engagement period where we cohabitated half of the time and started making plans for our future. I’m glad we talked about it ahead of time because it made things easier once we got married.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Failure is a Bitch: What My Injury Taught MeMy Profile

  4. I absolutely think you should talk about finances before you get engaged. Maybe not on the first date, but when you know it’s getting serious. I also think you should plan on how you want your financial life to be. For Jim and I, we had no money, so there wasn’t much to talk about, but we made no plans for when we would. If you have no plans to ever have money, that might say something about the relationship as well, and you need to decide if you are both on the same page before moving forward.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Top Five Ways To Make Sure You Never Retire EarlyMy Profile

  5. Absolutely this should be discussed. As a currently engaged individual I would have never considered proposing to my fiancée if we hadn’t discussed and been on the same page financially. In fact, we weren’t on the same page as we both have very different views on investing and saving for the future. She is extremely conservative (invest in savings accounts and CDs only), while I am investment driven (P2P lending, stocks, real estate). Prior to moving forward in our relationship we specifically discussed and worked out our differences in a manner that both of us could work with and be happy. Not worth the future battles if that wasn’t the case.
    writing2reality recently posted..2013 Passive Income Goals RevisitedMy Profile

  6. Discussing finances – current practices, future goals, etc. – should be part of the getting-to-know-you process, way before engagement is on the table. It’s way important to discuss finances than almost anything else, yet finances are often the last topic people get to. Once you’re planning to get married, whether you are engaged or not, it is very difficult to be dissuaded from that path when new information comes to light. As Well Heeled said, this should be a series of conversations, but I don’t think it needs to be formalized if you’ve done a good job while dating of seeing how the other person handles his money.

    My husband and I ‘grew up’ financially in parallel since we started dating before we were financially independent from our parents. We just never had any financial secrets from one another. We weren’t involved in one another’s finances directly before marriage but we could observe what was happening and have some influence. I don’t think we necessarily showed one another our Mint accounts, but he knew about the debt I was paying off and I knew he was living below his means enough to be piling up savings. You can discern a lot about someone’s finances between knowing their income (which we did – we showed one another our offer letters when we got into grad school) and seeing how they live. For us, it was very organic, but very thorough. We didn’t mock up a joint budget until we were engaged, though.

    Here’s a post I wrote about when to disclose financial secrets: http://www.evolvingpf.com/2012/08/financial-disclosure-before-and-after-engagement/
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..Important But Uninteresting PF TopicsMy Profile

  7. My future wife showed me her unbalanced and undecipherable checkbook on our first date! :-)

    By the time a couple is considering engagement, if they’ve been paying any attention they should have a solid idea of whether each person is a spender or saver, frugal or extravagant, sensible with money or a spendthrift, a planner or a day-by-dayer, a budgeter or a seat-of-the-pantser,… you get my point. :) There should be an ‘exchange of information’ too though about debt, credit scores, retirement savings, etc. I think you’re right–unpleasant surprises after engagement or marriage can only hurt the relationship.
    Kurt @ Money Counselor recently posted..What Would You Do? #6My Profile

  8. Having an open communication in all aspects is very important before getting married especially with regards to financial matters. Because whether you will like it or not, it will be part in every married life.
    Jeremy Norton recently posted..Help with Setting up a BusinessMy Profile

  9. I completely agree. Saying “yes” and committing to a lifetime where you’ll be legally bound to one another without full financial disclosure is nothing short of crazy. I’ve been trying determine at what point in DATING do you discuss a shared financial future?

  10. Let’s see ..

    I’m expected to marry someone and be responsible for a lot of things money related and am supposed to sign the papers without having the talk BEFORE? Not gonna happen.

    I have no issue with discussing money even when we’re dating. We’ve been together for 11 years and lived together in the past years. We both know what each of us has been up to, have spent money together and made plans. We recently got married, but we have lived like a ‘normal’ couple for quite a while.
    dojo recently posted..Make money blogging: Promote only the products / services you believe inMy Profile

  11. I guess it depends on the couple, but I definitely think so. Wes and I already live as though we are married, and have had joint finances for years now, even though we are not married (we are not religious). I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
    Michelle recently posted..What is the American Dream?My Profile

  12. Obviously, I’m not engaged, but to me, the idea of marriage isn’t one where one person explains his superior position, and expects his fiance to go along.

    Instead, I would set aside an hour for a long talk about finances. I would ask her what her financial goals really are. And here’s the thing I think that’s most important — I would actually listen. Hopefully, I’d get the chance to share mine as well but listening is that most important first step.

    Once both of us have explained our goals, we could figure out how to mesh them. Then, and only then, will we be ready to discuss the means to get there. And get there jointly
    Debt Blag recently posted..Packing bulk lunches frugally as a single guyMy Profile

  13. We discussed it throughout the entire dating process. It just kind of comes up. We didn’t ever have a sit down and lets hash this out since we were pretty close to being on the same page with our goals

  14. Talk about EVERYTHING before getting engaged- not just money. Definitely talk about money, though. I really believe that both parties should be completely transparent about finances before getting engaged, show each other bills, budgets, accounts balances, debt, credit scores, etc. It would be a really good idea to go to a financial planner or counselor as part of this, someone who will sit them down and have them talk through what money means to them, what their financial goals are, how things will change if and/or when they have kids, just everything. You can’t have too much information before deciding to commit your entire life to another person!

  15. I think discussing finances is HUGELY important before commiting to spending the rest of your lives together! It almost baffles me when I hear about this kind of thing.

    Actually, a friend of mine told me she found out about her boyfriend’s debt years into the relationship. They are now engaged. How it didn’t come up when buying their house I’m not sure. But I guess it’s kind of taboo in relationships.
    This Life On Purpose recently posted..The Living Wallet and Other Ways to Curb Your SpendingMy Profile

  16. We knew everything about each other. We discussed our credit reports, our bank account balances and everything. We knew we would combine finances after marriage so we wanted to make sure we were on the same page preior to both engagement and marriage. So many people get divorced over money and we didn’t want that to happen to us. We would have rather known in advance that it wasn’t going to work out. Keep in mind, my wife graduated college with 80k in student loan debt and I still married her!

  17. I say absolutely before!! My love and I talked about everything under the sun. And now with a very recent engagement – :o) – and wedding planning, and debt butt-kicking, I am very glad we did! There would be nothing worse than thinking all was good, getting the ring, making the commitment, then watching the shoe fall as debt collectors start to call.
    Katy recently posted..Will the real budget please stand up?My Profile

  18. We talked money within the first few weeks of dating. I’ve always known that financial stability is truly important to me, so I tested those waters really quick to avoid wasting time. :-) Luckily, my husband-to-be felt the same as I did about emergency funds and retirement savings. :-)
    Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter recently posted..Tesla Motors: The Beginning of the End for Buying Gas or Charging BatteriesMy Profile

  19. Most definitely it should be discussed.

    Now, I do get the notion that two people should focus on each other and their compatibility/shared values/love first and foremost. But realistically, it’s also a demonstration of fairness to the other person to disclose finances. Hiding things is not a good way to build a foundation of trust. Plus, finances are something people can and do argue about, so compatibility in that area seems like it would be a great thing to have!
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted..Money and Remarriage: Differences Between Men and WomenMy Profile

  20. Yes, yes yes! I can’t imagine marrying someone before talking about finances. Money fights lead to divorce for many many people, why not avoid those fight by talking about money and figuring out where you both stand before you commit to each other. Bf and I talked about money very early on in our relationship. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Wishing You All Treats & No Tricks!My Profile

  21. Yes 100%. Talking about finances is a MUST before settling down. You don’t want to jump in into something big as marriage without any plan in place
    Shaun Hoobler recently posted..recipe secrets discountMy Profile

  22. Coming from a divorced family, I know first hand that finances should be discussed before engagement. When you don’t agree on money issues, the problems don’t go away – they manifest into an ugly relationship.
    Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans recently posted..Klay Thompson: Too Old for an Allowance?My Profile

  23. I’m not engaged, but I absolutely plan to have these discussions prior to the ring being on my finger and wedding bells are chiming. I look at marriage as a partnership and with that should come open, honest communication. If someone was resistant to talking about these things before being married, I’d want to know why.

  24. However hard the topic… I think it should have been brought up sooner even. Although I get where she’s coming from. I wouldn’t be jumping for joy to share that kind of information either. But if I were in a serious relationship, I’d feel obliged to. I mean: my debt is telling a story of the person I once was, but me doing something about is, is telling the story of who I became. And in addition: I am a person, I am not my debt. If someone wouldn’t be able to see through that, I might seriously reconsider spending my life with him.
    Little Miss Money recently posted..Day 23 – Some Honest Answers.My Profile

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