It’s that time of year…cake toppers, bridal brunches and save the dates. Wedding season is just about here! Unfortunately, not all things wedding-related are always so lovely. Without a plan, combining finances with your soon-to-be spouse can lead to a lot of frustration and hurt feelings. In fact, one study found that 70% of couples argued about money more than any other topic.
Why? The topic of personal finance is usually considered “taboo” in most social situations, so talking through money management habits is usually a little awkward, especially if it’s your first conversation.
Having a concrete plan can help you communicate about money and spending habits that might otherwise be missed.
One approach is the “foursquare” method. It works like this: Each of you divides a piece of paper into four squares, or sections, with the following titles: Assumptions, Requirements, Goals, and Dreams.
Within each section, list a few bullet points that describe your approach, ideas and attitude about that title.
Assumptions should include any long-held ideas you have about money. These Assumptions are likely impacted by the way your parents handled money, or your prior or current approach to finance. For example, you might assume that you would combine finances and share spending history with complete transparency when you’re married.
On the other hand, you might assume that you’d have separate checking accounts and certain “extra” spending that you don’t need to clear with your partner.
Requirements are your non-negotiables. For example, you might require that you always maintain three-months worth of funds in your saving account. Or you might require that you only purchase a car using cash, versus financing it.
Goals should be things you want to accomplish between now and the next five years – i.e. putting down 10% on a new home or paying off your college loans.
Dreams are essentially long-term goals. For example, you may have a dream of owning a vacation or second home, or saving enough money to retire when you’re both 60 years old.
Keep in mind that skipping an annual vacation in order to save for an early retirement could be an Assumption for some people, and a Requirement for others. Either way, the point of the foursquare exercise is to provide a tool to allow you to dig deeper into the emotions and meaning of finance.
Remember, when it comes to marriage, talking about finances is more than just sharing your respective monthly incomes and how much money you have saved in the bank.
Proactively discussing finances can save you and your partner from a lot of headache down the road, and will likely allow you to save more AND achieve your financial goals quicker.
For even better co-money management, do the foursquare exercise every year. Just like life, finances and priorities change, so it’s important to make sure you’re both on the same page, regardless if you’re a newlywed or a seasoned vet.