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Premarital Financial Planning Part 1: Key Considerations and Conversations

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Combining your lives means combining your finances in one sense or another. Learn some key conversations to have as you embark on pre-marital financial planning from Adam Kol, Couples Financial Coach.

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You’re diving headfirst toward marital bliss… but when it comes to finances between you and your spouse-to-be, are you blissfully ignorant?

Maybe money feels overwhelming or is a tough topic to discuss without defensiveness or frustration.

Does any of this resonate?

To be honest, I’d be surprised if it didn’t, at least to some degree.

There’s a reason surveys have found that money is the #1 relationship stressor, while studies (like this one and that one) have found that money fights are the top predictor of divorce.

There’s good news, though: with the right approach, even without a whole lot of personal finance knowledge, you two can find your way to financial clarity, partnership, and peace of mind.

What kind of difference would it make in your relationship and your life to have:

  • Trust and safety around talking about money,
  • A joint vision for financial prosperity, and
  • A plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be, financially speaking?

That’s the aim of this series of articles and everything at The Couples Financial Coach.

Keep reading to learn the five keys, including the most critical considerations and conversations, to succeed at premarital financial planning.

Key 1: Talk, Talk, Talk!

If you’re like me, this already sounds fun! For others, all this talking may sound like a nightmare. But trust me: I’ll lay it all out for you and bring you along slowly.

For many of you, you may be about to have the first money-related conversation with your partner that didn’t end in an icky feeling, and that alone can do wonders for your partnership in this arena.

What should you discuss?

Your Money & Relationships Story

I always recommend couples start by discussing what I call “Your Money & Relationships Story.” In short, this means everything around your thoughts and experiences about money.

Here are some open-ended questions to get you started:

  • How did your parents or guardians handle money when you were growing up, and how do you think that affects your relationship with money today?
  • What good or bad money experiences did you have in any past relationships, whether around planning vacations together, living together, etc.?
  • What have your experiences been like with financial institutions like banks, mortgage banks, payday lenders, etc.?
  • For you, how does money feel – easy, challenging, fun, scary, and/or otherwise?
  • What money-related messages, ideas, and stereotypes are associated with your culture, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.?
  • Any other questions that come to mind about your money history, values, perspectives, etc.?

Start by doing some self-reflection on these questions, and then get together and share what you came up with. In this process, effective communication looks like:

  • Focus on listening to your partner and getting to know them better
  • Not offer advice or criticism based on what they share. There will be a time for suggestions and solutions, but it’s not today.
  • Ask questions to clarify what your partner is saying, ensure you understand them, and get more information or depth about something they’ve shared.

Remember, there’s nothing to argue about here. You’re just listening, sharing, and building mutual understanding.

This will build trust and safety around money talks, which is really the “master key” for handling any financial situation or conversation without hurting your relationship and, instead, maybe even improving it!

Hopes, Dreams, Fears, and Worries

Next, think about your money-related hopes, dreams, fears, and worries. Again, I suggest starting with some self-reflection, but if you feel comfortable, you can also jump straight into talking about this with your partner. 

If you’re wondering whether this question is deliberately broad just to annoy you…yes and no. It is deliberately broad, but rather than annoying you, the idea is that you each have space to share whatever feels important to you.

Remember that many aspects of life can be “money-related,” and all of those are welcome here. For example, financial considerations affect career choices, whether to have children (and how many), where to live, when to retire, how to vacation, what to eat, and so much more.

You and your partner may have some overlap, and you may have some differences. Wherever you land, that’s okay.

Allow yourself to dream here, live in the clouds a little bit, even if you don’t think that your hopes and dreams are realistic. Especially if you’re typically anxious about money, that kind of dreaming may be challenging, but it’s worth it because:

  • It’s probably fun to think about, at least once you get going
  • This will help your partner get to know you better…and maybe even give them some ideas about nice things to do for you
  • You can’t have what you want unless you know you want it, and your partner can’t get on board unless you tell them about it!

I’ve found that often people’s goals are closer than they think if they bring some intention and mindfulness to their finances…so dream away and see where it takes you!

Personally, I hope to grow my business enough to cover all of my family’s needs, plus enough left over to travel, buy fun gadgets, and be able to choose how we spend our time and energy.

Now, what about the fears and worries?

As mentioned above, you’ll probably have some different fears and worries and possibly some of the same ones. It’s common for one partner to have more financial anxiety while the other has a more “everything will work out” kind of perspective.

It’s key here to be authentic and open, even if you’re not proud of those fears and worries or even think they’re irrational (…or worry that your significant other might think that). 

Practice having the courage to share, and you might be pleasantly surprised at how that helps your partner understand you better and show that they have your back. And as you’re going through this, remember that what makes you different also makes you a great team!

Personally, I worry about business revenues drying up or making a poor business investment decision. I also worry about a family member getting sick and needing expensive, chronic care. I fear that an unpredictable housing market could make it hard to give my future children stability.

Now it’s your turn!

A Note On Timing: You do not have to have all of these conversations in one sitting. In fact, that’d be nearly impossible, at least if you’re going pretty “deep,” which is what I strongly recommend.

I recommend setting aside 30 minutes, 1-2x per week, to get these conversations rolling and go from there.

Your homework is to schedule your first money date! See you back here for the next installment in this series: Key #2: Knowing Your Numbers.


Premarital Financial Planning Series by Adam Kol, The Couples Financial Coach

Premarital Financial Planning Series by Adam Kol

Check out the full series:

  1. Communication is Key
  2. Knowing Your Numbers
  3. Make a Plan
  4. Get Your Legal Life in Order
  5. Structures, Setups & Division of Labor

For questions or support around creating financial clarity, teamwork, and peace of mind, visit my Website, check out my Programs, or email me: [email protected]


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adamkol

Adam Kol, The Couples Financial Coach, helps couples who love each other make sure the money conversation doesn't get in the way. He's a Certified Mediator, Attorney, and former Financial Advisor with Duke Law and NYU Law degrees. Adam has been seen in The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, and CNBC.