8 Things I Learned About Money After Getting Married


Marriage comes with its fair share of life lessons, and money is among the most prominent of these. Here's what I've learned about money while being married — for better and worse.

1. Credit Scores and Debt Should Be Laid Bare While You're Still Dating

Money is a taboo subject, in general, and couples — especially new ones who are still navigating the muddy waters of a blossoming relationship — don't like to talk about the financial predicaments they may be in. But these conversations are necessary.

My husband and I were sort of forced into the conversation as we bought our first home before we got married, but even if that's not on the horizon for you and your partner, it's still good to assess the credit score and debt situation so you both know what you're dealing with. That's not to say that you should dump somebody because their financial standing isn't as great as you might have hoped it would be, but it's certainly a factor to consider as you plan your life together.

2. Discuss Future Financial and Investment Goals Before Saying "I Do"

Before I got married I had plans for my future, but those plans changed (at least a little) when I decided to get hitched. I adapted my strategy to accommodate my husband — but I didn't derail it altogether, and I don't recommend that you do either. It's about compromise — it's beneficial to discuss your specific plans and goals ahead of your nuptials. Your partner may not want to open that new business, or carry the potential financial burden that comes along with it. On the other hand, your spouse may be totally on board with how you've mapped out your financial future and/or investments, and vice-versa. But you won't know until you discuss it.

Lay it all out on the table before getting anywhere near the altar so you each have a clear idea of where your relationship is headed financially (in theory, at least) once you're joined in holy — and legally binding — matrimony.

3. Schedule Uninterrupted Time to Discuss Your Finances in Depth

The only way my husband and I stay on the same page about our finances — and, specifically, the money that's coming in and going out on a constant basis — is to schedule time to discuss where we're at financially. We usually have a dinner date once a month where at least part of the conversation is about our budget, expenses, debt, and increases or decreases in expected income.

We also have an annual meeting at the end of the year to discuss what we anticipate the next year's expenses to be, and how we plan to meet them. While it's not easy integrating another person into the mix financially — and it can sometimes be stressful for you if you've overspent or missed a bill and you don't want it to result in an argument — it's needed so that you can both stay on track and repair snags together.

4. Keep Your Family Out of Your Finances — Period

In a perfect world, we'd all be rich and nobody would want for anything. That's not the case, however, and sometimes family and friends come knocking for a loan. My general rule is to not provide this type of financial support to anyone, as it rarely turns out well — and most people will tell you that. My husband, on the other hand, views this subject differently, and there's been at least one time where there was zero discussion about providing the loan to a family member, and I didn't find out about it until after the fact.

I wasn't particularly bothered by the amount of the loan or to whom it went — it was his money and he could do what he wanted with it — but rather that I wasn't included in the conversation. Even though I wasn't contributing to this particular loan, it could have affected our ability to purchase or finance something we needed down the road, and I felt as if I had the right to be informed.

5. You're Morally and Legally Obligated to Help One Another Financially

Whether you like it or not, whatever happens to your spouse financially also, in a sense, happens to you. This could mean a moral obligation to get out of whatever money pickle you may have gotten into, or, worst-case scenario, it could be a legal obligation, like if you file joint taxes and owe the government money. The IRS debt may be the result of one or the other's financial status — like if you have taxes taken out automatically each pay period from employment, but your spouse is an entrepreneur (like I am) who pays estimated taxes — but legally you're both on the hook for the debt. Not being prepared for this situation, or how to handle it responsibly and fairly, can lead to resentment and loads of other issues that you're better off without.

6. Keeping Separate Accounts Can Help Maintain Some Independence

My husband and I keep a joint account for shared purchases, like vacations, but we've also always maintained our own separate checking and savings accounts. For some couples this may seem odd, but for us it's helped us keep a part of our individual independence intact. While we consult each other on major purchases, we don't have to ask one another if we can buy some of the smaller things or little luxuries that we want, which in turn helps us to avoid nitpicking each other about things we don't think the other one should be buying.

I can only imagine how couples who co-mingle all their money argue about how many coffees or beers each is buying per week, the 19th pair of new shoes she's bought this year, or the new video game he brought home. The bottom line for us is that the bills get paid and we're still able to save; we're allowed to treat ourselves every now and then without having to ask permission or fear retribution.

7. Debt Can Destroy Your Relationship — If You Let It

A few years ago I discovered a substantial amount of debt that my husband racked up, and I was completely gutted over the situation. How, why, when, where? So many questions went through my mind, not the least of which was, how are we going to pay this off? I was lucky in that regard as my husband took full responsibility for it and promised to pay it off himself — and he has. But it may not work out like that for everyone.

If your partner isn't capable of paying off the debt, you, in fact, may be responsible for it too if it's attached to a joint credit card or another joint account. When that happens, it will likely put a major strain on your relationship. Old debt is one thing, but new debt — that is, debt acquired singularly by one partner while you're in the relationship — has a much more damaging and lasting effect. We were able to get past this and get back on track, but it's not easy. It definitely puts stress on the marriage, which can further worsen an already rocky relationship.

8. Money Doesn't Buy Happiness

All the houses, nice cars, designer clothes, and luxury goods in the world will not make you happy in a relationship you don't want to be in. When you're sitting among all your beautiful things and you wonder why you seemingly have everything but still aren't satisfied, you need to look beyond the bling. There's a deeper issue for which you're trying to compensate. Talk about it; make decisions. Your mental health is worth more than what's in your bank account — always. Remember that.

What has marriage taught you about money?

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture
Gary @ Super Saving Tips

Those are all important lessons! The only one I differ with is separate accounts. I recently read that couples who keep separate accounts are 40% more likely to overspend. My wife and I share accounts and talk through our purchases together, but we've never had an argument over them. Perhaps that's because we're on the same page with our overall financial goals and our budget.

Guest's picture

Joint finances, for us at least, forced us to talk about everything. Since we are opposites, (I'm the save for a rainy day tightwad, he's the enjoy life now spender), we've had to accommodate and learn from each other. He implemented the personal "mad money" accounts and I got him to coupon, yard sale, and look for discounts. More than once I've thanked him for insisting we have a little personal blow money. It's been an oasis of sanity during some particularly squeaky tight times.

/** Fix admin settings safe to ignore showing on unauthenticated user **/