7 Tips on Disclosing Finances Before Marriage

by TTMK on March 12, 2012 · 4 comments

When it comes to sharing details of your finances with another person, how much is too much?

There are clearly some boundaries that are important when it comes to such information being shared. We each have our set of limits to how much we will share with people depending on the relationship. Whether stranger, acquaintance, friend, or family member – many of us will reach a limit where we feel like some things ought to be private.  However, when you’re marrying someone, should we have boundaries in this regard?

I say no, and support the idea of being open about finances.  We previously the discussed general topic of how to merge finances when getting married, including 6 tips on how to combine financial lives upon getting married. The first tip was to be sure to disclose your finances.  This means having a talk about your money history as well as current financial situation, to make sure that you’re being transparent and open. Before anything else can be done (discussing future goals, budgeting, etc), it’s important to share information.

It truly is important to share these details about one’s history and situation. It’s not that money needs to be a prerequisite for being with someone, as there are far more important things in relationships and life than money.  That being said, when people marry, they no longer have individual and sole control over their finances. No matter how responsible one person might be, the other person’s habits and past decisions can truly impact the finances of the couple going forward. So it’s only fair, and actually beneficial long-term, to be open.

Along those lines, here are 7 tips to disclosing one’s finances when getting married.

  1. Think long-term.   Realistically, for many people, your partner’s finances aren’t on the mind.  That applied to me too, as you might be (understandably) focused on love and just enjoying the other person’s company. Nevertheless, money does have a way of controlling people’s lives when they’re in debt or don’t have it. Thus, think long-term and for the betterment of the relationship, and get motivated to bring up topic for the sake of both people.
  2. Have the courage to bring it up.  Let’s face it, many of us were taught to avoid talking about money with others, and that people are more important than money. I happen to still have hesitation to talk about my finances in some cases, despite being a blogger who talks about money. And yes, people are totally more important than money. However, we should overcome psychological barriers to such discussions, and have these discussions with kindness and openness.
  3. Share first.  If you’re the one bringing up the topic, be willing to share your information first. Hopefully this wouldn’t be necessary to even think along these lines, but if it’s a sensitive or awkward topic, go first.
  4. Have empathy.  As mentioned to above, we know that some of us have trouble talking about money. The way we grew up and what we saw at home might play a role in how this view was shaped.  Additionally, we don’t want our partner to feel defensive or territorial. Best to show kindness and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes when having this type of discussion.
  5. Disclose Assets.  Once you get around to actually sharing details, put on the table the assets you both bring in. Savings, 401k, car, real estate, etc – they’re all important to discuss.
  6. Discuss Income.  Talk about how much you make. Simple as that.
  7. Disclose Liabilities.  This can be a thorny issue for some individuals, but it’s important to share everything. Such as, what the debt is, how much it’s for, for how long, and why it was incurred in the first place. If there are expenses such as care for a family member, or obligations to children, etc – disclose them.

Again, the purpose of these discussions isn’t to interrogate the other person. Additionally, the idea isn’t to assess the other person based on their net worth or income potential. There are much more important attributes than that! Rather, it’s to be open and transparent since people who marry do end up getting joined financially.

My Questions for You

Have you disclosed (or would you) disclose finances before marriage?

If so, how did you handle it?

What do you think about the tips noted above? Would you add or change anything, in terms of advice for others?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle March 12, 2012 at 10:46 am

We’re not married but have been together for almost 6 years (and are practically married). We were financially aware of each other pretty much from the start and were open about everything. We bought a house almost 3 years ago, so everything is still open.

Reply

TTMK March 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Michelle – that’s great to be open about everything, it’s a great way to build a foundation

Reply

Invest It Wisely March 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I definitely think that everything should be disclosed by marriage time. If not, then why are you getting married?

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TTMK March 13, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I would agree – thing is, many people don’t seem to do that!

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