When two people decide to unite their lives in marriage, there are bound to be surprises. Sometimes those new discoveries can make your partner seem even more attractive—other times they can make you take pause. Sure, it’s not exactly a romantic discussion, but with differences in financial habits being touted as one of the more common causes of divorce, doesn’t it make sense to know what you’re getting into? Here are some very unromantic yet terribly important financial matters to discuss and explore with your future spouse before tying the knot.
How much money do we have and what will we do with it?
You may think you know of everything he has, but some guys are squeamish about money. He may give off an impression that he has more money than he really has. Maybe you’ve done the same. Sounds crazy, but he may even want you to think he has less money than he has. And even though you may think it’s not important right now, you may feel otherwise later. The foundation of every marriage is trust; so what does it say for your overall level of trust if he feels the need to hide things from you now?
Now is the time to come clean about everything. But don’t just talk about how much money you have; talk about how you saved it and what you’d like to use it for. How much more would you like to save, and how important is it to you to have that money? The point here is to get a discussion going. Find out where you are similar and where you differ, and more importantly, how you are going to resolve those differences now and down the road.
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How much debt do we have?
As tough as it may be, you both need to be completely honest here. Make sure you disclose everything. You should discuss how your debt will be paid off and, if necessary, how you’ll keep from incurring new debt. Again, what are your similarities and differences, and how can you resolve your differences? If you find that you can’t reach an agreement now, what makes you think you’ll be able to agree after you’re married?
How much income will we have?
What do you make? How will your income change in the future? Is your income predictable or will it fluctuate from year to year? Remember, this is all about expectations so you two can plan and work together. For example, if he expects next year to be less fruitful than this year, you need to be aware. That way, you’ll both be on the same page and able to plan together.
What are our expenses now and how will they change once we’re married?
Every couple has arguments about money—especially when it comes to spending. What you think is a necessary expense, he may think is frivolous, and vice versa. But remember, it’s not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong. Your goal is to learn about each other’s financial habits. If you discover something you disagree with, let your partner know, and work together to find a fair resolution. You can tell alot about a person by what he spends his money on. Here’s your chance to see what you’re getting yourself into.
Going forward, how will things change?
Different people have different “financial personalities.” While you may be perfectly comfortable paying all your bills at the end of the month, he may prefer to pay each bill the moment it’s received. He may prefer writing checks while you prefer electronic payment methods. Will you each maintain your own checking account or would you rather combine everything? If so, who will be responsible for paying the bills? If you don’t combine your incomes, who’ll be responsible for which bills?
Make no mistake, this won’t be an easy conversation—it may even be the toughest of them all. You may even realize things aren’t as rosy as you previously thought. But wouldn’t you rather know now than later?