San Diego Financial Literacy Center

Understanding Your Future Spouse’s Financial Standing

With my brother’s wedding two months away and two employees in full wedding planning mode, it has become impossible to escape the topic in the last few months. Now with the wedding season right around the corner, many people around the country will also be planning for their big day.

While all engaged couples dream of a perfect day to kick start the rest of their life, anyone who is planning or has planned a wedding knows money will be an important factor. The influence money can have will carry long after “I do.”

Finances are often the number one problem in marriages and a leading reason for divorce. In fact, a Utah State University study mentioned in a recent Yahoo Finance article that, “Couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about them once a month.” We suggest that as you try to choose what items to add to your wedding registry, venue, and caterer, don’t forget to talk about your attitude toward money, current financial situation, and future aspirations.

  1. Review Credit Reports  Many couples will be looking to make some of the largest purchases of their life after marriage, like a home purchase. Avoid surprises for you and your spouse and look up each of your credit reports. You both can retrieve your credit report once a year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus by visiting
  2. Establish “SMART” Financial Goals  Many couples talk about what family size they want and even what pets they prefer. But have you compared short and long-term goals? Does your future spouse have a desire to purchase a second home? Or does she or he want to buy a boat and sail the world? How do they like to invest? How willing are they to follow a budget? Talk now about how willing they are to make necessary short-term sacrifices to complete long-term goals.
  3. Calculate Your Net Worth as a Couple  Share all of your income information as well as your expenses, existing loans, credit card debt, and student loans. For better or worse, your fiancé’s finance issues (except their credit score) will now impact your financial situation.
  4. Find a Comprehensive Budget That Will Work for Both of You  Calculate current income and expenses. With two incomes, you may want to start looking for places to spend the added income, but before you do, look at what your new monthly expenses will be as a married couple. Bills, like groceries, commuting costs, and even dry cleaning expenses will likely increase. Work together on a family 30-day financial challenge. Set aside money in savings accounts for things like retirement, a down payment on a home, and vacations. Create a joint emergency fund and consider setting aside a small amount of money per week for each individual to use as they wish.
  5. Develop a Plan to Use Your New Status for More than Just Updating Your Facebook Status  Find expenses that overlap and use your married status to decrease expenses. For example, automobile insurance often offers multi-car and driver discounts. If you have debts, use a credit card debt calculator to see how long it will take you to pay it off. If your debts will take years to pay off, make sure that you’re aware off all of the different options available to you.

After you have all of the personal financial work out of the way budget, you will have time and money to plan the wedding you’ve always dreamed of. Set a strict “wedding budget” and don’t deviate from your predetermined amounts unless you’re willing to cut back somewhere to compensate. Ask friends and research online for ideas of what others have done to save money.

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