When you’re in love, money usually isn’t the first thing on the list that you’re jumping to discuss as a couple. But when your plans for the future include marriage, it’s an essential topic to cover before tying the knot. If you and your fiancée know exactly where each other stand financially, then there will be much less surprises after you say, “I do.” Also, since money has been cited in several studies as one of the contributing factors in divorce, doesn’t it seem like a wise thing to discuss sooner rather than later? Following are a few topics to go over with your future spouse before getting married.
1. What will your money discussions look like?
It’s important to figure out how you and your spouse’s communication about money will be handled. Even if one person completely takes charge of the household finances, the other person should still be aware of what is going on at all times.
One good option is to schedule a regular time every month where you will discuss your finances. That way, you can keep them mostly out of your every day life if you choose to do so. During your monthly meeting, you can talk about how you did that month financially, any upcoming financial decisions, and any adjustments you may need to make to your budget. Yes, there may be some arguments along the way. But once you get on the same page with finances, you may find yourself actually looking forward to these monthly meetings.
2. What are your financial roles?
Within a relationship, there’s typically one person that prefers to be more involved in handling financial decisions than the other. That’s totally fine, as long as the other person still remains involved. If one person handles everything in the household from budgeting to investing, you can still establish certain rules, such as a mandatory discussion about any purchase that costs over a certain amount.
3. How will your finances be organized?
Perhaps you prefer keeping separate accounts, and each contributing certain amounts each month toward the mortgage and other bills. Or maybe you’ve decided to combine all your finances and handle all your expenses from one account. Either way is completely fine, as long as it’s working for you. Don’t assume your partner will agree to whatever arrangement you prefer. That’s why this is something that’s important to discuss before getting married. Talk about the positive and negative aspects of each, and then decide on the best arrangement.
4. What debts and/or assets will you each contribute?
Before you walk down the aisle, make sure you really know whom you’re marrying, and be honest with your partner about the person he or she is marrying. This means divulging any debts you may be carrying into the marriage, as well as assets. Once you’re married, your financial situation can affect your ability to obtain a mortgage and other loans, and it can either help or hinder your financial future as a couple.
If you or your partner has substantial debt, talk about whether it will be that person’s responsibility to pay it off, or if it will be a joint effort. On the other side of things, if one of you has significant assets, discuss what the expectations will be going forward. As hard as it may be to discuss, this is where you may want to go over whether a prenuptial agreement is the right choice for your situation.
5. Will you set rules or boundaries for spending and saving?
Often in relationships, one person tends to be a spender, while the other is the saver. For this reason, you may want to consider setting some rules or boundaries in both of these categories. Some people use online systems such as Mint.com, which help you categorize and budget your money each month. Other couples may prefer to use cash in order to control their spending in certain areas. Regardless of your approach, it’s important to have a discussion in order to establish a plan that will enable both you and your spouse to save and spend on things that are important to you.
6. What are your financial goals?
Before getting married, it may be a good idea to discuss where you would like to be financially in the next five to 10 years down the road. That way, after you say “I do,” there are no surprises in terms of expectations and goals. Discuss whether you have any major expenses coming up in the next few years and how much money they will require. Then you can figure out how much you’ll need to save each month in order to reach your goals. When you establish a monthly budget and set aside funds to reach certain goals, it will make you think twice about frivolous purchases, thus enabling you to save more and reach your goals together.
The bottom line: Before you’re joined together in marriage, it’s important to work toward common financial goals and be honest with each other about your money struggles and triumphs. Understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and communicating your goals clearly before tying the knot will help make things a lot smoother going forward.