So, you’ve found the love of your life and are ready to take that next huge step by officially committing to spend the rest of your lives together. That’s great! Congratulations! And if you’re reading this article before finding the one you want to live out the rest of your days with, don’t just assume this isn’t relevant. Learning this information before getting serious with someone can be just as beneficial. If you’re already married, hopefully you already know these things about your partner, but if not, it might be worth asking these questions now.
The thing is, if you’re going to spend the rest of your life with someone, you should not be afraid to talk about money. Money can cause tension, but lack of communication only makes things far worse. My husband and I started talking about money a few weeks into dating. Naturally we didn’t tell each other all the nitty-gritty details right off the bat, but we wanted to feel comfortable talking about it right away. Plus, we’re both accountants, so it’s kind of hard to avoid talking about numbers and money since it’s a big part of both of our lives =P.
I would recommend having money talks before moving in together, if possible, but especially before buying a house together because owning is much different than renting. If you’re getting married before moving in together or before buying a house together, then definitely make sure you have the money talks before you make that commitment.
- How much money do you make? Knowing your partner’s income helps you learn how much you can afford as a couple and helps to ensure you do not take on bills that you cannot afford to pay.
- How much debt do you have? Does your partner have student loans? Do they have a large credit card balance? Did they finance an automobile? You want to know the type of debt, the interest rate (high or low can make a difference on how much the debt increases), and the dollar amount. This is important because it can impact what kind of mortgage you’ll be approved for or how much of your combined income will be going to debt payments.
- How much can I spend without consulting you first (and vice versa)? It’s good to be on the same page to avoid arguments and avoid any potential financial stress. My husband and I pretty much tell each other everything (except for say a lunch or coffee or super small items) just to keep each other informed and to avoid surprises.
- Who will be in charge of paying the bills? Maybe you will split who pays for what or maybe one person actually has all the log-ins for all the bills. You have to determine what works best for you.
- Who will be in charge of monitoring the finances? Do you want one of you to have the overall say in how money is spent? Will one person log into the bank accounts and check credit card statements to make sure all the activity is accurate?
- Who makes the investment decisions? Is someone more knowledgeable about the stock market? Does someone have a better passion for it? My husband and I manage our individual retirement accounts on our own, but we usually ask each other’s opinions before buying or selling investments. My husband is definitely the one who tracks the markets more closely than I do, though.
- Who will manage the budget? My husband and I manage our budget together because we both like to know exactly where our money is being spent. For some couples, they prefer to have just one person managing the budget because they are better at it or it’s just overwhelming. In any case, you should make sure you have this established.
- How much do you want to spend on x,y,z? How much is your partner willing to spend on vacations? What about going out to eat? Charitable donations? There are loads of expenses, for both necessities and desires, that need to be discussed,
- Will we be paying for our future children’s college education? If you do want to pay for your future children’s college education, this requires a lot of planning and, obviously, a lot of money. It’s a good idea to know this as soon as possible so that money can be set aside early on to make it less of a financial burden when the time comes to fork up the money.
- Will one of us stop working to take care of our children? This is becoming less common as time goes on, it seems, but some people feel very strongly about being the one to take care of their own children. Additionally, daycare is very expensive, so maybe it makes more financial sense for someone to stay home with the kids before they are in school. This is a very personal decision, but it has a huge financial impact if you go from a two-income household to a one-income household.
- Do your parents pay for any of your bills? Would it bother you if your partner has some financial ties to his/her parents? If so, you want to address that and find a solution.
- What kind of bills do you have? This can include various debt, but also things like cell phone, car insurance, life insurance, medical bills, gym memberships, dues and subscriptions, etc.
- Where do you want to live? Obviously this conversation would include more than just a financial aspect, but some areas are significantly more expensive. For example, my husband and I live in Westchester County in NY. There’s a very big price difference between a house in Southern Westchester and a house in Northern Westchester. Narrowing down an area helps you determine a housing budget.
- What is our wedding budget going to be? Maybe one of you sees yourself having an extravagant wedding, while one would prefer something low key and less expensive. Maybe your wedding budget will be set by money you already have saved.
- How will we afford our wedding expenses? Are you willing to take on debt to afford your wedding (piece of advice: don’t)? Do you plan to set aside money each month? Do you have parents who are paying for the wedding?
- Have you ever declared bankruptcy? This can impact the kind of mortgage and other loans you may be approved for. This also will give you insight into your partners spending habits or financial situation (maybe your partner has overcome a position of financial hardship and if
- Do you participate in your company’s retirement plan? This will give you an idea of your partner’s thoughts on retirement and lets you know if they are on the same track as you.
- What are your financial priorities? Does your partner like to aggressively save for retirement? Does he/she like to vacation every year? Does he/she have expensive hobbies? It’s important to know how your partner likes to spend money.
- What is your credit score? Good to know for purposes of opening credit cards, being approved for a mortgage and even, in some cases, finding a place to rent.
- Will we combine finances? Not everyone likes the idea of joint accounts. My husband and I waited until just a few months before the wedding to open our first joint checking account. We were living together for 3 years before we got married and we had split responsibility for bills and that was working great for us; however, for us, marriage meant combining every aspect of our lives, which included bank accounts.
These questions do not need to be asked all in one sitting. They can be discussed through multiple conversations, but it is definitely good to know everything there is to know about your partner’s thoughts on money. I also want to add that there may need to be a lot of compromise and joint decision-making. In the end, everyone has different preferences and what works for one couple will not necessarily work for another. Always do what’s best for you.
Do you have any questions to add to this list? Is there anything you wish you would have asked a significant other before marriage or moving in together? What are some ways you and your partner handle finances?