Many couples would rather talk about sex expectations than financial expectations and arrangements. And that’s unfortunate, because studies show that money issues are the number one stresser in marriages. And when stepchildren are involved, money stress can become even more overwhelming.

So grab a glass of chardonnay, curl up on the sofa, and have that difficult discussion about these financial topics.

How much debt do you have?

Fess up and add up all you owe on credit cards, student loans, car payments, child support, and alimony – the works. It’s important, because your spouse’s debt can affect how credit-worthy you are as a couple.

Also, you should talk about how you each feel about using credit cards versus cash. Credit cards can give you cash back, which is an instant discount. But they can be a financial black hole if you don’t pay off cards every month.

We’re not judging. Just make sure you agree on this important financial issue.

Save or spend?

Life’s short; play hard. Conversely, life can be long, save as much as you can. They’re both good philosophies, but if you and your partner don’t agree on this basic principal, rocky roads are ahead.

Talk about your savings expectations – especially for the kids’ college – and see whether you can compromise on a percentage of your income that will go to long-term and short-term savings. Also, if stepchildren are involved, be clear on who is responsible for their education – you, your ex, or you and your ex?

Separate and equal?

Do you want to comingle your money? Keep separate accounts? Mix some; keep some for yourself?

Also, do you plan to contribute the same amount of money or a percentage of your income to these accounts? And if kids come along, does one or both of you want to take a break from a career – and earning money – to raise the little ones?

There are no right or wrong answers; just conversations to be had and compromises to be made.

What are your material goals? 

You may love dining out at fine restaurants, whereas your partner values a great slice of pizza. You may love shopping for living room furniture at estate sales, whereas your spouse wants to go antiquing for furniture that will appreciate in value as it ages.

We’re not saying you must have the same tastes in everything, but you should know what material goals you each hold. If you don’t have this discussion, you could find yourself arguing over every future purchase.

These are tough talks. Give us a call if you need help raising these topics or coming up with creative solutions for the problems and differences that are bound to arise.