While getting married is typically an exciting milestone, many engaged and newlywed couples are starting their new lives on a rocky financial foundation.
Since finances can have a major impact on the success of a marriage, financial services company Northwestern Mutual and digital wedding planning resource The Knot surveyed engaged and newly married couples to see how proactive they are when it comes to discussing money and mapping out their financial futures together. They found that in many cases, couples are not on the same page.
One thing lacking between many couples is communication. Only 37% of respondents said they talk about finances with their partner each month, and 40% admit to feeling anxious when they even think about the idea of engaging in financial planning as a couple.
Most of those surveyed don’t even have a clear picture of what they want financially for themselves, as 72% of respondents said they haven’t figured out a plan for saving for their own biggest priorities.
Yet, most respondents recognize the importance of connecting on a financial level. An overwhelming 82% said they feel closer to their partners when they agree about money. Also, achieving financial stability is the most cited long-term concern by respondents, with more worried about financial stability (40%) than raising children (30%) or keeping the spark in their relationships alive (24%).
Nearly a quarter of couples disagree about budgeting
But despite the best intentions, financial compatibility is often easier said than done. Nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents said they disagree with their partner about budgeting on a monthly basis. Even if they are not seeing eye-to-eye about money matters, most couples appear to be unwilling to seek professional help, as only 13% of engaged and newly married couples said they had sat down with a financial planner.
Complicating things for some couples may be the fact that partners often enter marriage with financial baggage of their own. In fact, 80% of respondents said at least one partner had preexisting debt. However, many are prioritizing digging themselves out of the hole as they look for a better joint financial future. Paying down student loan debt was the most cited top priority among respondents, followed by buying a first home together and setting up an emergency fund.
Whenever a couple starts thinking about marriage, both parties should recognize that getting married will likely change their finances in some way. Communication is key, and many couples may find that the more they talk about money, the easier it becomes. Having a written set of questions or money conversation starters can also make it easier for couples to begin opening up to each other about their financial histories and their money goals.