64% of Couples Haven’t Disclosed Their Debt Before Marriage. Have You?

Let's talk all things joint finances

At this point, I’ve already shared some of my darkest personal financial secrets. Since we teamed up with Yours, Mine & Ours (an education and action plan platform on a mission to help all of us become power couples), I’ve had a magnifying glass on my personal finances, and also my financial partnership. Trisha and I are still in the earlier stages of being together (not quite two years yet), but our lives are very intertwined. A year ago, when we moved in together, we started chatting about how we would manage finances. At the time, we decided to keep our money separate. I got a checking account where we each would drop our rent money monthly, and write a check to our landlord from that account. Otherwise, we would take turns paying for gas, groceries, and other costs, and we each paid a few of the smaller bills (think: Netflix, date nights, and the like). It has worked okay, but honestly, it just hasn’t been great. We hadn’t sat down and looked at our exact numbers and figured out how to start to really work together to create a life we want. Because with two sets of finances, it’s really hard to make joint decisions or build towards bigger financial goals (maybe buying a house one day, planning a wedding, or you know… retiring). But none of that makes the part where you have to own up to your personal financial history—and uh, debt—any easier.

So, when Ours offered to send me their course content early to review and put to use, they got a big ole “Yes, please!” from both of us. We knew we had a lot of shit to get done, and I had a feeling that listening to some badass divorce attorneys and their network of professionals was the right move. Spoiler alert: it was!

But let’s start with the facts. Facts that divorce lawyers know. Facts that the rest of us should discuss more:

  • Money is the number one issue married couples fight about (and it is a leading cause of divorce).
  • Only 51% of American couples actually discuss how they will handle and combine finances prior to getting married.
  • Only 41% of married couples disclosed their annual salaries before they got married.
  • A shocking 64% of married folx haven’t disclosed their debt prior to getting married.(These stats are mostly from a 2018 study by SunTrust.)

These statistics really shook me, because to be honest, I see myself in them. I’m proud to report that Trisha and I have already shared our annual salaries and (gulp) debt numbers with each other. Don’t be too impressed… it was not because we are superstar finance whizzes who have it all together—it was only after we started working with Ours. And it was terrifying. I honestly just wrote down my income and debt numbers and handed them to her with my eyes closed. It felt unbearable, but then, it was done. And guess what? She still loves me and she told me she wants to approach all of it together (the good, the bad, and the ugly).

“When it comes to personal finance, clarity is your friend. Clear expectations will put you in the best path forward. It may feel “unromantic”but as complicated as life becomes clearly establishing expectations from the outset will serve you well.” Gabrielle Hartley, a family law attorney, mediator and coach, licensed to practice law in New York and Massachusetts. Gabrielle is part of the Ours network of professionals, who you can get connected with (for free) by visiting the Get Connected page at Ours.

Clarity is exactly what we gained. Without Ours, would we have done that before we got married? I don’t honestly know. And have we discussed how we’re going to further combine and handle our finances after we get married? Um, no. And I get it. Trust me, I work for a website that focuses on weddings and marriage: I GET IT. When you get married you are legally bound… that includes your money. How are people like us not talking about our salaries and debts early on? How can a relationship feel like a true partnership if you don’t work on your money issues together and have transparency? How how how? I started to really panic.

Laptop screen with the Ours website on it.

Instead of letting myself spiral, Trisha and I sat down and got going on the course content from Yours, Mine & Ours. We learned a lot, made a to-do list of what we wanted to accomplish, and checked it all off. Here’s just a bit of what we got done:

  • Made a priority list of what we wanted our finances to look like moving forward, and how we wanted to go about it.
  • Went to the credit union and converted the ‘rent’ account into a true shared bank account, and added a savings account to it.
  • Decided on a joint money/banking style. (Ours covers at least three ways, and we landed on a hybrid version.)

“This is the system I see most frequently: ‘Yours, Mine and Ours.’ It’s nice to pay joint or household expenses out of a joint account, but still have a separate account for those expenses that clearly belong to one person, such as gifts, “fun” money, or even that old student loan.”Sara Stanich, a financial advisor in New York, and a part of the Ours network of professionals.

  • Decided how to attack those debts together (in what order, with what/who’s money).
  • Set up auto bill-pay for rent and all our other utilities that are now paid from our shared account.
  • Breathed a big ole sigh of relief. (Oh, and we’ve talked about our financial plans every couple of days since… yay for staying on track!)

Two parents holding hands with their child in the middle.

The team at Ours has been hard at work behind the scenes creating this course (and future ones too) chock-full of information and action plans that are seriously going to change your life. They changed mine (well, ours). Their courses are full of input from all sorts of professionals (think: lawyers, therapists, financial advisors, and more), so this info is truly indispensable. That’s not all: when you join the Ours family, you’ll get benefits that extend far beyond the courses. They now have an online community for their members where you can chat with other likeminded couples from all over the place, share ideas and stories, get feedback and even hear from the Ours founders and their network of professionals on questions. I would be clicking ‘buy’ right now if I wasn’t already in, because I absolutely have to be in that insider’s group… ya girl is constantly full of questions. Plus, they’ve lowered the price to just $37 now. That is insane, and shouldn’t be passed up.

So, APW readers…  spill. Have you and your partner been transparent about your finances? Do you know each other’s debt, salaries, Balances, bills? Are you comfortable with your financial partnership? Does it feel egalitarian to you? Tell me everything, don’t leave me hanging out here being vulnerable by myself. Let’s learn from each other.

And if it’s time for you and your partner to get serious about shared finances, get over to Ours today, visit their blog, read the Ask Me Anything (hello, helpful advice), and register for their course on Banking Like a Power Couple. You won’t regret it. The course is only $37 now! NO EXCUSES. 

This is part of our series and partnership with Yours, Mine & Ours, where power couples are born. A platform of education, action plans, and professional advice for modern couples—making power couples of all of us, Ours will help you identify what’s important in your relationship, provide you with custom advice, and then turn that advice into action for. First comes love, then comes real life, then comes Ours. With the help of Ours, you can tackle the tough stuff, and keep the love alive. Be your own #relationshipgoals.

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