When to bring it up: As soon as possible! It's better to disclose any uncomfortable, or even embarrassing, financial woes before things get out of hand and cause serious complications.
How to bring it up: This is a delicate topic for everyone, so it helps to set up a time to discuss money in a comfortable and non-chaotic environment. Translation: No finger pointing or eye rolling. If you're afraid that emotions will get the best of you, involve an impartial third party, like a relationship counselor or financial planner, to tackle tough questions and concerns.
What to talk about:
1. Establish Transparency
Secrets in marriage are trouble, and financial secrets will undermine trust issues across the board. You might not be proud of your shopping habits, but he'll need to know up front that you have trouble walking away from a sample sale.
2. Bring Up Personal Expenses
This includes everything from weekly manicures and physical therapy sessions to chipping in for Nana's retirement home expenses.
3. Put Debt on the Table
Debt is going to give you an overview of your finances and your abilities to take on new financial responsibilities, like a mortgage. Outline everything from student loans (and its monthly payments) to pesky credit card debt.
4. Forecast Financial Goals
Retirement savings conversations are anything but sexy, but you don't want to leave those on the back burner. Even if you're not investing in an IRA at the moment, hash out how you'd like to live 20, 30, 40 years from now.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
To avoid nasty fights that stem from "I didn't know about your dream of having a state-of-the-art kitchen/home-theater/Mercedes-Benz," talk about where money should go once you pay all the bills and day-to-day expenses.
6. Discuss a Budget
Create an Excel worksheet and fill it in with all your expenses and unpaid debt to calculate how much you have floating in savings—you might have to reconsider what you deem a necessity and cut corners (or not!).
7. Set Goals—Together
Talk through your marriage bucket list. Do you want to buy, and completely renovate, a house? Travel the world? Start your own business? See how you can both contribute to these wishes.
8. Test-Drive Your Ideal Life
Take a closer look at each other's daily spending style for at least a month. Is your fiancé nursing a Starbucks habit while you brown-bag lunch daily? Understanding who is a saver and who is a spender is important, as is respecting personal interests and hobbies. This means it's okay to indulge in a fancy dinner with your foodie-mate once in a while—even if you're a die-hard coupon-clipper.
9. Figure Out Bank Statements
What do you plan to do with your bank account once you tie the knot? If you're not joining your earnings under one roof, create a plan for different financial responsibilities.
10. Understand Each Other's Earning Potential
Chances are, you don't have exactly the same salary and one of you may want to stay home, if you have kids. Talk about how each of you will contribute to the relationship, financially, or otherwise.