Having financial discussions can be awkward between couples, much more so for those who are about to get married. After all, we are raised to believe that people are supposed to marry for love, not for money. Many research studies, however, have shown that money is the top source of tension in relationships, and not talking about it before the wedding could be a big and lasting mistake. In addition to marriage being an emotional and romantic partnership, it is also a financial partnership.
Here, then, are five financial questions you need to ask your partner before saying “I do.”
How much money do you earn?
It may sound tacky, but you do need to know this from your partner before getting married. Whatever his/her earnings may be, at least you’re fully aware of it beforehand. Among other things, it will guide you both when discussing your future plans as a family, i.e., whether to buy a house or whether to have children or not.
Do you have debt?
When it comes to starting a family, it’s very important to lay out all the facts, especially with financial obligations. After all, when you marry someone, you also marry that person’s debt. Before committing to spending a lifetime with a person, you should know exactly how much he/she owes because it will certainly affect your financial status and even your future. More information is better than less information when it comes to your partner’s financial health.
Both parties should be willing to provide to their partner information about unpaid student loans, car loans, credit card bills, former spousal support payments, or child support payments. Recurring bills/payments can quickly eat up a monthly budget, and not knowing about it beforehand can create conflict in your relationship.
It would be a good idea as well to share credit reports and review them together. You can work together should one of you need help to improve your credit scores.
What assets do you hold?
Aside from debts, of course, you should know if about your partner’s assets. This can be anything from cash in the bank and trust funds, to stocks, real estate properties, and jewelry.
If one of you has more assets than the other, or has children from a previous relationship, a prenuptial agreement may be advised. Introducing the idea of prenuptial agreement should be addressed honestly, but sensitively. If you feel the need for a prenuptial agreement but feel uncomfortable broaching the topic with your partner, you may do well to in contacting a third party, such as a pre-marriage counselor, who can help facilitate discussion of this sensitive issue.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to money?
Ask your partner how he or she views money. Are they savers, spenders, or a combination of the two? What percent of your income is saved? Invested? Is your partner comfortable living within a budget? Are credit card bills paid off each month? Conflicts arise when your respective money styles are very different. If you’re a penny-pincher and your partner is a big spender, you can expect marital conflict to develop.
Knowing your financial tendencies and goals before getting married can help you both arrive at a compromise. You don’t want to learn later that your partner wants a big house with a white picket fence – if it means paying a large mortgage for decades – while your dream is to own a condo in the city.
It’s not always possible to be a complete match when it comes to financial goals. However, talking about it beforehand can help you come up with a compromise regarding which needs to be met first.
Are we going to combine finances when we’re married?
Some couples assume that they’re going to combine their finances once they start living together. Don’t assume; talk to your partner about this. If you don’t want to combine your bank accounts, you can have a joint account where each of you can contribute a monthly amount for shared expenses.
It is recommended that the more financially skilled spouse take on the role of managing and paying the couple’s joint bills. However, this should not mean that the other spouse is oblivious to the financial condition of the couple. Scheduling monthly financial meetings with your partner during which the couple’s financial needs and obligations are discussed will go a long way towards financial harmony in your relationship.
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