Weddings are bouncing back in a huge way in 2022. An estimated 2.5 million weddings will take place next year, the most the U.S. has seen since 1984, according to The Wedding Report, a market research firm.
If you're one of the millions of people planning on tying the knot next year, now is a good time to start discussing your financial future with your fiance, says Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist in Los Angeles.
"The process of opening up the door and talking about money is 100% of the time a valuable process, no matter what you decide," Clayman says.
"One of the things that I encourage couples to understand is that there's not a one-size-fits-all of organizing and tracking information," she explains. But to start your marriage off on the right foot, "there are five qualities and five actions that can help develop a healthy relationship," she says.
Whether or not you decide to combine your finances, keep them separate, or share some of your money — systems Clayman refers to as "the one pot, two pot, three pot" method — really depends on what works for you and your partner.
No matter what you choose, there are five qualities that are important to maintaining a healthy relationship around financial decision-making, Clayman says.
- Equality. "Both partners have an equal say in money decisions."
- Inclusivity. "Both partners are participating, so you can't opt out or be pushed out of" money decisions.
- Transparency. "If there are areas of privacy," like separate bank accounts, "that is negotiated, and the boundaries are understood."
- Flexibility. To be open to change and "to change your money routines, as needed."
- Sustainability. Your financial health is "not overly burdensome to one partner."
1. 'Identify your values around money'
Those five qualities can act as a "guide to make sure that you're on the same page," Clayman says. After you've established the importance of those qualities, "there are five actionable tips to make sure you and your partner are working towards those qualities," she says.
The first thing Clayman suggests doing is "identifying your values around money." This includes your values around how you earn money, how you spend money, and how you engage with money. "So for example, when you engage with money, you want that experience to be calm, or empowering," she says.
Focus on revealing "who you are, as opposed to what you think is wrong with your partner," says Clayman. For example, frame it by saying: 'It's important to me that my money do XYZ,' Clayman says. "A conversation about your values should start with the word 'I."
It's not about one person being correct, she says, it's about taking "personal ownership."
Talking about money can be hard and "even awkward," says Clayman. But it doesn't have to be. "For partners for whom this does not come naturally, it's easy to learn active listening techniques."
For example, "when your partner is talking, you repeat back to them what you think they just said, then you say, 'Is there more?' Your partner can respond to that, and then it's your turn to talk after that," she says.
Most importantly, when engaging in money talks, do so "with a commitment to be disciplined in your speech, and talking about yourself first, meaning taking responsibility for yourself, and listening to your partner," she says.
3. 'Make what's important to you a concrete ask'
"The third thing is really important," says Clayman. "It is to make what's important to you a concrete ask." For example, you don't want to say, "'It's important to me that we save money,'" she says. That's a bit too vague.
"Instead, it's, 'What I would like us to do is to be able to save $200 more per month,'" she says.
"That concrete piece is so critical," Clayman says. "You are the one who is tasked with making a proposal that is actionable and measurable."
Even if you both agree you want to save, "that doesn't mean that you get to then critique every purchase your partner makes," she adds.
Money is very emotional. "When we're saying 'more saving,' that's looking at the symbolic part, or even the emotional part because saving feels good, it makes me feel less anxious, but that's not necessarily something that translates to your partner," she says. "So we have to take that feeling or that value and translate it into something concrete."
4. Coming to a compromise
If you don't agree with your partner's idea to save an extra $200 a month, try looking at what your partner's money is going towards "and how that holds value for them," Clayman says.
Try not to look at the situation in terms of what you're giving up, either. Instead, "try to include as many of your values as a couple in the process as possible."
The $200 may need to come down to $150, but think of it as "giving to ourselves, and giving to a system, instead of thinking about what we individually lose," she says.
5. 'Put it into practice and keep track'
Remember that this isn't a one-time conversation, Clayman says. "It's not like you come up with a system that's like 'how we're going to do money, where our money is going to go, how it comes in, etc., and then you're like, 'well great, that's done."
This is something you should continue to work on with your partner, she says. "There needs to be regular contact around this to make sure that it's working and it's conforming to those five principles that I listed earlier."
"This is like your base to make sure that you're having those conversations as opposed to having the system running in the background that nobody is keeping a eye on," she says.
Especially in the beginning, "we want to make sure that on a monthly basis, our committed expenses are what we expect them to be, those spending allocations are what we expect them to be, we want to look at if there are any predictable changes, especially if your income isn't W-2 income, and make sure that you're able to track periodic fluctuations that may be coming in," she says.
Most importantly, "both of you have to show up for that," Clayman says. "It's not like one person keeps an eye on it and the other person is fancy-free, you both have to have a conversation once a month."
To make your monthly finance conversations more enjoyable, Clayman suggests getting out of the house. "If you go to a coffee shop on a Sunday and you bring your computers and your paper, you're sort of carving out a luxurious amount of time and relaxing afterwards. ... It can be a nice treat just to change locations."
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