Love and Money: Combining Finances After Marriage

It’s no secret that money talk is considered taboo, even in modern times. 

You’re more likely to bump into a neighbor and get into a heated discussion about the latest in politics. Or to a good friend, divulge some personal things you and your partner discovered on the romantic front. But money? Nope, no. Heck no. 

It turns out, we don’t even like talking about money to our significant other. In fact, money is the number 1 thing we fight about. 

In an episode on Ramit’s Instagram, he gets deep with a couple who have big financial dreams, and combining their finances after marriage is a large part of it. From discussing credit card faux pas to student loan nightmares, the couple bares it all. 

Can you relate to Angela and Phillip’s financial goals? Find out in the live Instagram video that goes where few couples are willing to go: they share intimate financial fears and failures with us (and *gasp* each other). 

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They’re both educated and Phillip has the student loans to prove it. Homeowners, car owners, and credit card holders, the couple is in debt to the tune of $500,000.  

500 friggin thousand dollars! While Angela has a stable income plus money from a side business, Phillip runs their business (which is still in its early stages), however, it doesn’t bring in nearly as much as the job he lost during the pandemic. He took a hit of $4,000 per month. 

A quick calculation with the debt payoff calculator shows that the couple would need to part with $4,000 per month for the next 20 years to get out of debt. 

Combining finances after marriage can be tricky to navigate, but with a few pointers, these rocky waters can turn into smooth sailing in no time. 

Ramit’s tips to talk finances with your partner 

Be honest 

In the interview around the 5-minute mark, Ramit asks the couple how they feel about their financial standing if they were to give a rating of 1 to 10, where 1 is great and 10 absolutely blows. 

Phillip answered that for him it was a 7, and Angela rated it more towards the 8 or 9 mark. At some point, it comes to light that the couple’s financial position and financial portrayal aren’t the same. Part of Phil’s healing would be to admit that he has a bad decision-making matrix and that he’s not fiscally responsible. It also places a tremendous load on Angie’s shoulders. 

Know that not everyone views finances the same way

If you’re like Angela, you find it hard to trust or let go of the financial responsibility and tend to experience financial anxiety. Hoarding cash in secret savings accounts creates a sense of money safety, especially if you were raised in an environment that had a scarcity outlook. Joint accounts and combining your finances are tough topics to discuss. 

If you’re like Phillip, chances are good that you have credit card debt you haven’t told anyone about. You also spend before you get paid, resulting in financial stress when the payments don’t come in on time at months’ end. 

You’ve got to communicate! 

While Phillip seems optimistic about the business, he divulges that it would take around 6 to 12 months before he can draw a proper salary (12:45), and this alarms Angie. When Ramit asks the couple how they’re doing financially (15:39), they both agree that they’re treading water and that there’s month-end anxiety. During the last half hour of the session, Ramit constantly tells the couple to stop talking to him and start talking to each other instead. 

Other important things to discuss include life insurance, bank accounts such as savings accounts and checking accounts, and your credit score. You’re responsible for your personal finance and open communication ensures you remain accountable. 

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Get a financial plan in place 

Roughly 20 minutes into the interview, Ramit decides to poke the bear and gets Angie to spill the beans on where her anger lies. Phillip’s debt, which seems to be the elephant in the room, never has a pay-off date and Future Phil always has a plan. Ramit encourages Phil to get a plan together, find out what his final payment date is on all his debt, and what he can do to pay off debt faster. 

Get off the rollercoaster 

While it might seem like more money would solve their dilemma, Angela admits around the 34:58 mark that throwing more money at Phil’s bills won’t solve the problem. Phil needs to admit that he’s overly optimistic and that they need to put workable guidelines in place to streamline decision-making (Ramit’s all about automating finances!). For starters, automating your savings. 

Figure out what your Rich Life looks like

For both Angie and Phil, this included children, business expansion, and never worrying about those damn finances again. 

Do your research to find your highest potential income, and how to get there 

At 50 minutes, Ramit asks Angela to do some research on her financial plan to get to where she needs to be to earn what she wants to earn.

Ask yourself: 

  • Is it possible in my line of work? 
  • What do I need to change to get there? 
  • Is there a ceiling on my earnings? 
  • Do you need to adjust your ideas of a rich life, even if it’s temporarily? 
  • Will you need to change your job or career? 

Pay attention to your inner (sometimes screwed up) narrative 

Phil touches on a nerve at :55 into the interview that forms the backbone of the American Dream: don’t give up. The notion that we’re losing when we decide to move on from a business that doesn’t help us attain our Rich Life, is part of the reason we’re happy to sit in a job we hate. Look out for: 

  • I don’t want to give up on my dream 
  • I’m not ready to give up 
  • I don’t want to fail 
  • My family will think… 
  • I don’t want to work for the man 

It’s easy to get caught up in the narrative that going from a business owner to an employee is a downgrade. However, the only failure or downgrade is the one that keeps you from experiencing financial peace. 

Ramit asks the couple to explore whether they’re willing to let go of their preconceived notions. 

Set realistic financial goals 

Once you put a date to a goal, you’ll quickly learn whether the financial route you’re taking is worth your sweat, tears, and long hours. Successful business owners don’t wait until their backs are against the wall to pull the plug. 

Start with: “If by ___, it doesn’t meet ____ goal, we need to sacrifice/lose/sell this to keep it.” If the loss doesn’t justify keeping the job or business, it’s time to look for something else. 

It’s also important to be optimistic and not poke holes at all the suggestions. Put it on the table and see how the options measure up, not only for financial health but also overall wellbeing. 

Ask yourselves as a married couple

What is our rich life together? What are we willing to do to get it? What is our step-by-step plan to do so? 

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.