It’s always said that the number one thing couples argue over is money. Like with most fights, much of the disagreement about finances and money could be solved with proper communication. The problem is that many of us are taught that you don’t talk about money. You should not say how much you paid for your house, share how much money you make at your job, and people many don’t tell their friends and family they are in debt.
These etiquette rules need not apply when you’re getting serious in a relationship. When you’re moving in together, getting married, and building a future together, a big part of that revolves around money. I think it’s even a good idea to tell you’re family and friends about your debt, but especially your significant other. Here are questions every couple should ask before marriage to avoid arguments later and to be on the same financial page.
Financial Questions Every Couple Should Ask Before Marriage
- Will you have any separate accounts?
How will you manage money in your marriage? Are you going to combine all of your money into a checking and savings account or keep separate accounts? Consider the positive and negative impacts of both. If you’re keeping things separate, who pays for what (bills, food, entertainment, gifts for others, etc.)? Every couple is different, and you need to figure out what works for you both. Are you both going to keep track of the finances or just one? Will you use Mint or Quicken to track your spending? Who will be in charge of paying the bills each month?
- Are you in any debt?
You both need to be honest about the amount of debt you are in. Having debt can impact future life choices you make together like making a big purchase such as a home or car. If you have debt, it can also negatively impact your credit that can make it difficult to get a credit card or even rent an apartment. Be open and honest. Even if you’re embarrassed about it, your spouse should be aware. Instead of just laying it out there if it’s the first they are hearing about it, come equipped to the conversation with a plan. Let them know how you got into the debt and more importantly, how you plan to get out of it. What is your plan on how you are going to deal with this debt and how will it impact them and you both as a couple?
- What are your earning expectations?
What do you expect out of each other? What would you say if your significant other came home from work one day and declared they wanted to change careers and take a significant pay decrease? Express what you expect to earn yourself and what exactly you expect out of them.
- How much do you want to save?
How much money would you like to save out of every check? You should also discuss what type of savings account you’d like to have. Having an amount keeps you both on the same page and aware of what you want to save for. Also, what is your opinion of investing? And how much will you save for retirement?
- What are your spending habits?
How much and how often do you spend money? If you’re a saver like me, you might want to know if your spouse is constantly spending money on little unnecessary purchases that add up. Do you plan on shopping a few times a month for clothes? Going out to dinner a few times a week? Will you have a budget that you follow each month? What will your financial pie chart look like? Talk about what you generally spend money on and what you think is a good idea for you to do as a couple.
- How will you talk about purchases?
Your spouse is out shopping and sees a new laptop that would be perfect. Does he or she call you to ask you about it or just buy it? You want to spend extra money on a vacation while he or she would like a new television, how will you talk about this? Will you give yourself an allowance to control spending? Setting your expectations for how much you want to know will prevent confusion and misunderstandings later.
- What are your career goals?
If down the road, your spouse wants to return to school full-time or take time off work to travel or work on another project, you should know. Opening your own business can cost a lot of start-up money and not generate much income right away. You both should be open with your future ideas and goals.
- What are your life goals?
Many dreams in life have a backbone involving finances. Building a dream home, retiring at an early age, having children, sending those children to college and/or paying for their wedding, going back to college, traveling the world – all of these require a lot of saving and planning. Knowing what you both want will help you decide what you’ll build together and how you’ll get there.
Tips for Discussing These Financial Issues
Before you even start talking, you both should take ample time to think first how you would answer all of these questions. I’m embarrassed to say, but before I actually started dealing with my student loan debt, I really wasn’t aware of how bad it was. You should know all of your facts such as your gross income, the total amount of any debt you have, the interest rate of that debt, and any other bills you have.
After you know all the factual things, you should have an idea of how you would answer the more emotional questions and what you are looking for your financial future. While you’re thinking yourself, you might actually want to jot down a few notes so your thoughts stay organized and the conversation can stay productive.
Set a time to talk about this. It’s serious so it shouldn’t be rushed. Don’t talk about it when you don’t have enough time to devote to the topic or if you’re stressed out about work or anything else.
Just like with any other discussion, be patient. Let your significant other explain their thoughts fully without cutting them off. Don’t brush off their financial ideas, goals, and dreams. Remember you are a team and although money is important, your love, respect, and care for each other are what make you the couple you are.
What are important financial issues couples need to discuss? What are the best ways to deal with finances as a couple?