Terry Savage: Marriage and money

Terry Savage, Tribune Content Agency on

The spring wedding season is upon us, and around the country brides, grooms and their parents are making arrangements for extravagant celebrations now that the COVID-19 pandemic is (hopefully) behind us.

According to a survey by The Knot, there will be more weddings in the United States in 2022 than any other year since 1984. And, on average, couples will spend $28,000 on their ceremony and reception, back in line with 2019 levels.

Yet with all the money involved, it’s a safe bet that most of these couples haven’t focused on the one aspect of their marriage that has the most potential to either disrupt their happiness or contribute to their marital bliss.

A few years back I co-authored "The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In or Moving On." It’s still available at My co-authors (and good friends) are Gemma Allen, a famed divorce attorney, and Michele Lowrance, a former divorce court judge and now sought-after mediator. The advice in the book is timeless, and it makes a perfect wedding shower gift!

So in this season of wedding planning, here are a few money tips from our book:

We suggest starting this premarital money discussion at a quiet time, with a glass of wine — just one — to get things flowing. Start by writing down and sharing your income and your debt obligations, including student loans and credit card debt.


If that’s too much of a disclosure challenge before you commit, how can you possibly plan for a lifetime together? This discussion does not preclude keeping money separate; in fact, that’s often a good solution. But lack of basic honesty about money matters is a fatal flaw in your future.

There are two basic types of money attitude: saver and spender. The source may be genetic or come from experiences as a young child. But not only can’t you change your own money attitude easily, it’s almost impossible to change your partner.

Recognize those differences and set up systems that allow each of you to function without stress. Recognize that dramatic disagreements about money style can wreak havoc on your relationship. This is the time to decide if money management is a deal-breaker.

It’s important to set up a structure for handling money in marriage. Will you each contribute equally to a household account that is used for basic bills? If your incomes are disparate, will you each contribute the same fixed percentage of after-tax income to the household account? You can still keep separate accounts for personal spending — whether for clothing or birthday gifts to each other.


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