Millennial couples are being smarter about money than their parents in this key way, experts say

Sarah Rafferty as Donna Paulsen, Patrick J. Adams as Mike Ross, Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter in USA Network's "Suits."
Ian Watson | USA Network

Over half, or 53 percent, of millennials (classified here as those aged 18-34) discussed how they would handle their finances with their partners before getting married, according to a new SunTrust survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by The Harris Poll. That's something 88 percent of Americans believe is important but, in practice, generally find hard to do.

"Millennials are marrying later in life than previous generations," says Joe Sicchitano, head of wealth planning and advice delivery for SunTrust. "Many of them have accumulated assets and experience managing their finances before marriage, so they bring maturity to discussions that they may not have had at a younger age."

Moreover, about 43 percent had at least one conversation about how much debt each had before saying "I do." That's a higher percentage than any other generation SunTrust surveyed.

It's certainly a lot higher than their parents' generation. Just over a third of baby boomers (those aged 55-64) say they discussed debt before walking down the aisle.

Other surveys have also found that millennial couples are more open about discussing finances with their partners than older generations, even if they're not married or engaged. A full three-fourths of millennials in committed relationships say they talk about money on a weekly basis, according to a survey from TD Bank of over 1,700 U.S. adults.

That's about 9 percentage points higher than the share of Gen X couples TD surveyed, and an astounding 31 percentage points higher than the share of baby boomer couples, who say they have weekly discussions about their finances.

"We're in a better place than we used to be because younger couples are more willing and open to talk about their money — and to address it directly, right out of the gate," Dr. Jane Greer, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, tells CNBC Make It.

We're in a better place than we used to be because younger couples are more willing and open to talk about their money.
Jane Greer

And while some millennial couples may be hesitant to discuss past decisions or mistakes, avoiding those conversations won't help, Sicchitano says. If you are in a committed relationship, SunTrust recommends making a full inventory of your assets — including checking, savings and retirement accounts — and any liabilities, such as student loans, credit card debt and car loans.

That will give both partners a sense of where you stand and what you need to do for future planning.

And it's OK to take baby steps. You can work up to the big conversations. You don't need to make all your financial decisions right away.

"Regardless of the past, couples need to discuss the financial reality of the present in order to plan successfully for the future," he says.

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