While “family planning” is a surprisingly controversial term in America, there is one aspect of planning for a family that shouldn’t be controversial at all but sometimes is, and that’s talking about money, specifically how it is handled.
If there is one thing I’ve seen pull more couples apart than any other factor, it’s having undiscussed assumptions about how money will be handled after marriage, after childbirth, as the family grows. This is at least partially a legacy of tremendous social change. These things didn’t need to be talked about 50 years ago: there was just a way they were handled, there wasn’t much doubt about them, and you did what your parents did.
That just isn’t the case anymore. So, we have to talk about these things, get them out into the open, and be sure that the assumptions your partner is making are the same that you are making. I have had more than one friend get surprised when, after marriage, their spouse nearly immediately stopped working. In one case, the wife warned him, but he thought she was kidding. In another couple, they had talked about money, and she had been proud of her career ambitions, but after marriage it just didn’t feel right anymore.
The key to all of this is constant, open communication about money, who is making it, and how it will be spent. The key isn’t remember that there isn’t a blanket right answer, the answer is what works for your family, but you have to find that out for you and your significant other.
I have friends where one person earns all the money and the other manages the budget. It could be the husband relieved never to have to think about money outside of work, and the wife is happy to manage the finances. He checks pretty much any major purchase beyond lunch with her, and he’s happy to do it.
The key is how you handle the shift from the “my money” mindset to the “our money” mindset: a family is a team, and what you make belongs to the whole team, including any children that are on the way. But it only works if you have a plan, and everybody is honest about what they are going to contribute. The most important thing, as always, is to find the right solution for your family.