Here's How Many Couples Believe in Combining Finances Before Marriage
When should a couple talk about finances? In the realm of romance and relationships, one of the most important topics of conversation for couples—money—can also be a source of discomfort. But it isn't just about how much a person has in their bank account so much as it is about how both parties view money as a shared responsibility, Mandy Len Catron, author of How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays, tells The Knot.
"Even if you hate thinking about money and your partner is a financial genius, make a point to share the work," Len Catron says. "How we spend shows what we value and it's hard to feel like you're on the same team when one person is making all the decisions. When talking about big decisions like opening a shared savings account or taking out a loan, it's great to explore your financial options—but do it together."
According to Len Catron, talking about money is actually foundational to a successful relationship, because it establishes open lines of communication about what's important to each person, regardless of what point in the relationship a couple's in. Though, she advises, it's always helpful to talk about finances sooner rather than later in a serious relationship.
Some Couples Wait Six Months to Have the "Money Talk"
"I think it's a great idea to get comfortable talking about money early and often in a relationship," she says, adding that according to a recent study at Marcus by Goldman Sachs, nearly a quarter of surveyed Americans believe the right amount of time to wait before bringing up the money talk is six months into a relationship.
"A simple first step is getting curious about your partner's relationship to money," she explains. "You might begin with some easy questions like, 'What was the first big purchase you made for yourself?' or 'What's one thing you'd really like to save up for?' These may feel like casual questions but they make it easier to talk about the big stuff later on."
The Majority of Couples Believe in Combining Finances After Marriage
Talking about money is especially important for couples who are thinking about taking the next big step in committing to their person: getting engaged, and eventually, legally married. And though couples likely do ultimately decide to divvy up the finances differently based on their specific situations and needs, the majority of Americans (62 percent, in fact) believe it's important to combine finances after marriage. Which means that it's undeniably important for partners to figure out whether or not they're financially compatible before saying "I do."
"When we talk about money, we're also talking about our identities and values," Len Catron says. "It's worth taking the time to figure out what money means to your partner, how it shaped their family life growing up, and what they want their financial future to look like. For some people, expensive gifts are a way of showing love. For others, saving for a down payment on a house is a gesture of commitment."
"Even if you have different financial values, if you know where your partner is coming from, conflicts are easier to manage," she says.
"Money Dates" Can Help Couples Align Financially
But given that talking about money is never easy, how does a couple even begin to navigate the murky waters of finance while still keeping the romance alive? A 2020 study conducted by UBS found that only one in four couples share financial decisions, but they are the most confident about their future. Whereas, the same study found that couples who separate decisions about money argue the most about the same topic.
In the last year, UBS introduced a term called "money dates" where once a month or quarter, a couple schedules a night in (or out) to discuss their financial goals and current status. Len Catron says couples should consider making a date night of it.
"A great way to navigate this kind of stuff is to make time to sit down together and talk through those expectations before things get tense," she says. "For example, if money is a source of tension, make a regular financial date with your partner. It might sound unromantic, but it doesn't have to be painful. Order your favorite takeout and give yourselves an hour to talk finances. Instead of waiting for conflicts to arise, think of it as an opportunity to sit down and decide what you're working toward together. You're not making a budget, you're creating a shared vision for your future."
Tough Conversations Will Help Your Foundation
The payoff will be worth it in the end, she concludes. "The ideal relationship is thought to be one where your partner totally understands you from day one. They know what you want and how to make you happy, even you haven't figured those things out for yourself," she says. "This idea is at the heart of our fairytales and romantic comedies, but real relationships rarely work that way. I think the toughest conversations are those where you have to be honest with your partner about what you need or want."
"It's hard to make yourself vulnerable like that," she adds. "But practicing having those conversations can make them much easier over time."