Of all the topics engaged couples discuss, I suspect the least amount of time—if any—is spent on how to handle money. I'm not talking about those budgeting exercises they give you during pre-marriage counseling or knowing how you'll make your rent or what it will take to pay off your student loans. I mean the real, gut-wrenching "how do you view finances" conversation.
No, that one usually happens after the wedding. Depending on your situation, it might be weeks or even months before it hits. But when it does, it lands with a giant thud in the center of your newlywed bliss.
Take Rich and me, for example. We were a little older—35 and 40—than "traditional" marrying age, so any observer might have thought we'd be financially set with an understanding of basic money management. The problem was, our "understanding" was not the same; we were set all right—set in our ways. And neither of us was willing to budge.
I can trace our distinct views to the models set by our parents. When Rich was growing up, his mom and dad kept separate bank accounts. They had a system for who paid what bills, but discretionary leftovers were theirs individually. Since his mom was an ardent saver, his dad was more likely to pay for the extras, such as eating out or vacations. But it worked for them, and so of course that is the financial separation Rich expected in our marriage.1