top of page

Navigating the Talk: Financial Advice for Newly Wed Couples

By Dakota Parks for Pensacola Magazine

Talking about money can be viewed as a taboo topic for a lot of people, but starting the conversation early with clear communication and goals to plan ahead can save a lot of grief down the line. The median age for marriage in the United States is 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men. That means many couples may already have established careers, own their own homes and have their own savings and bank accounts, which makes having a financial conversation before marriage more important than ever. Data shows that money is one of the most common causes of relationship stress and even divorce rates. According to research by the financial firm TD Ameritrade, 41 percent of divorced Gen Xers and 29 percent of Baby Boomers claim they ended their marriage due to disagreements about money.


Pensacola Magazine caught up with financial advisors Jacey J. Cosentino and Chesley Allegri from the Radcliff-Schatzman Group at Morgan Stanley to discuss ways for couples to navigate the financial talk before marriage and for new partners approaching the topic of consolidating finances.


Both Cosentino and Allegri agree that the best place to start is to get comfortable talking about money and future aspirations: “One of the best things you can do to help ensure the success of your relationship is to get comfortable talking about money,” they explained. “Take the time to respectfully listen to each other’s vision for the future—where you want to live, what type of career you want to pursue, if you want children and how you want to retire. Routinely talk about lifestyle expectations and your financial well-being as a couple or family so that it becomes part of your routine, rather than a hot topic.”


Here are some financial planning tips and conversation starting points from Cosentino and Allegri to help new couples maintain a healthy money relationship from the very beginning.


WHERE TO START

If the subject of money is not incorporated early on in a relationship, it can become a point of contention, which makes it nearly impossible to talk about. First, schedule a quarterly money date. Get to know your partner’s money personality: some people are savers, some are spenders and some avoid the topic all together. Next, establish common money goals. Once you know what these goals are, establish how much you are each going to contribute toward your goal every month and stick to it. An equal amount or equal percentage of income is often the easiest way to do this. Lastly, agree on an individual spending limit. This is especially relevant if your finances are merged. To avoid the negative connotation of having to “ask for permission” to spend money from a joint account, agree that any purchases above a set limit must be discussed and agreed upon together.


PROS AND CONS OF MERGING BANK ACCOUNTS

Before a couple decides to merge bank accounts, a budget might need to be implemented and agreed upon. It helps to be on the same page as to what should be spent on rent/ mortgage, cars, insurance, eating out, shopping, charity, vacations and so much more. Simply Googling “how to write a budget” will lead you to some great templates to use. Scheduling budget “dates” will also help ensure you have regular discussions and reviews on spending and budgeting.


Pros to joint accounts: they can simplify your budget, help make paying shared expenses easier and your partner has immediate access to funds in the event of an emergency.


Cons to joint accounts: they can potentially cause tension if partners have significantly different spending habits or income levels, they can reduce privacy and you can be tied to each other’s credit history and debt.


Pros for separate accounts: they can give couples a sense of financial independence and autonomy and may encourage more budget discipline with access to a smaller pool of funds.


Cons for keeping accounts separate: the responsibility of paying joint expenses and bills can fall on one spouse and tracking spending goals can be more complicated.


INHERITING YOUR SPOUSE’S DEBT

Generally speaking, whichever name is attached to the account is the person responsible for repaying it. If it is debt applied for jointly during the marriage, it would usually be the responsibility of both parties. Sometimes when purchasing a home, vacation property, car or boat, it may benefit you to apply jointly or have the person with the higher credit score and sometimes lower debt-to income-ratio apply for the loan to keep interest rates as low as possible.


TO SIGN OR NOT TO SIGN A PRENUP

A prenup, or “prenuptial agreement” is a legal agreement between two parties that outlines exactly which assets belong to whom and what happens to these assets and any assets that the couple might accumulate together in the event the marriage ends. Prenups get a bad rap. There’s a stigma that prenups are only for the ultra-wealthy and suggest a lack of commitment or confidence in the longevity of a relationship. There are a lot of reasons to believe that a prenup can increase your chance of achieving a happily ever after. It forces you and your partner to discuss finances and address how you will handle certain stressful scenarios together in the future. Divorce is messy and emotional enough—by having the tough conversations up front, you reduce the likelihood that you find yourself in a painful, drawn-out legal battle if things go south. Having a prenup is a very personal choice and you should consult with a legal professional.


CONSULTING A FINANCIAL ADVISOR

“Financial planning is one of the most important things any couple should consider having in place,” Cosentino and Allegri said. “One piece of our new client on-boarding is putting together a financial plan for each and every client. Taking 30 minutes to plan for the next 30 years is always a good thing. If the client has debt, making a plan to pay off that debt is an integral part of the financial planning process. Savings goals will be very different for everyone. There is a delicate balance between enjoying today and saving for tomorrow. Many couples have very different opinions and feelings on saving. It is more than just the numbers. Some choose to save aggressively and want to retire by a certain age and others spend more knowing they may need to work longer. It is our job as financial advisors to get to know our clients and have real conversations about their lives and what brings them joy and purpose.”


10 QUESTIONS TO USE AS A STARTING POINT BEFORE TYING THE KNOT OR MAPPING OUT A FINANCIAL PLAN WITH YOUR PARTNER.

1. What are your life goals and dreams?


2. What are some of your earliest money memories (the good and the bad), and how did your family talk about money?


3. What are some of your biggest financial concerns about the next 5-10 years? What about the next 20-25 years?


4. Do you have any outstanding debt or obligations I should know about, and if so, do you have a plan in place to address them?


5. If you were to receive a $1,000 tax refund tomorrow, how would you spend it and why?


6. What are your professional goals? How do you envision balancing career and family?

7. What does your dream retirement look like? Do you even want to retire?


8. If you plan on having children, how do you envision sharing parenting responsibilities and what values do you want to pass on when it comes to money?


9. How do you envision dividing household expenses and who is going to be responsible for paying bills, tracking expenses and managing the budget?


10. If one of you were offered a career opportunity in another city or country, how would we handle?


*Much of this information was sourced from the Morgan Stanley Playbook: “Tying

the Knot: To Half and to Whole.”

Comments


bottom of page