Who you choose to marry will be one of the biggest financial decisions you make in your life. Why? Because going forward you will be making financial decisions together that impact how both of you live your life. Marriage and money are absolutely intertwined.
“The number one issue couples fight about is also a topic many couples avoid discussing — money. According to a new survey by Ramsey Solutions, money fights are the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity. Results show that both high levels of debt and a lack of communication are major causes for the stress and anxiety surrounding household finances.” (1)
So give yourself a head start by asking these 5 questions before getting married. If you are not comfortable asking your significant other these questions….I’d first ask myself why and then take it one question at a time. These are important. You will not want to wait for the I Do’s to address these.
The 5 Questions to Ask Before Marriage
How Were You Raised Around Money?
Getting an understanding of how your future spouse was raised around money will provide you with a lot of insight around their past and present financial habits.
This may allow you to empathize or have a better understanding around why they have chosen to or chosen not to do certain things financially. It may bring light to anxieties or fears of certain money issues due to struggles in the past.
Discuss allowances growing up, any financial mistakes they saw or financial successes that they want to emulate. Get a feel for how money has played a role in their lives as a child and how it plays a role in their lives now.
This conversation will provide you both an opportunity to understand the financial path that led you both to this point today and help to start your new financial journey together.
How Much Debt Do You Have?
Your future partner’s debt is his or hers alone but it could, and likely it will, still impact you over time. If there are significant debt repayments to be made, this will require a significant portion of your future spouse’s earnings to go towards paying off debt and thus not going towards your joint goals and plans.
If your future partner’s credit card debt is high, this may have impacted their credit score and thus will make it difficult to buy a house or a car together.
This question will also provide insight into their spending habits and ability to manage their money independently.
This conversation will allow you to uncover a little bit under the hood of your future spouse’s financial life. The question will bring light to an opportunity to create a plan going forward to either strategically pay down the debt, increase their credit score and/or determine how you both feel about using debt going forward in your marriage.
Will We Join Our Accounts and Income After Marriage?
Having joint accounts and managing finances together as a partnership is how my husband and I have managed our finances and typically what I like to see for many other couples as well. But this decision certainly needs to be made by and feel good for both parties.
Will you combine everything? Or perhaps combine a certain percentage of your income to go towards certain joint ventures – like home ownership, travel, children, etc.?
The decision is yours and there is not a right or wrong answer. But the conversation needs to be had and both parties need to feel comfortable with the decision made going forward.
And if the decision will be to keep things separate, I encourage couples to continue to be open and transparent. I’ve seen the closing of the doors to finances be a recipe for mistrust.
I will also add that the two main reasons I am a proponent of joint accounts in a marriage is because…
- You’re married. You’re in a partnership. You are building a life together – much of that life will be dependent on your financial circumstances and opportunities. It will be easier to build that life together when you’re making those joint financial decisions with joint financial assets.
- When you have separate accounts only, it often leads to conversations around “You owe this % of the bill” or “You have to pay me back for X” or “Well, I last paid for this so…”. Those conversations are exhausting and useless in a marriage. Joint accounts prevent these conversations and allow your money conversations to be more meaningful and thoughtful about the future.
Who Will Be The Financial Organizer?
I understand that it is not realistic in a marriage for both parties to have a hand in everything. Not everyone wants or needs to be a part of every little detail for the home, the finances, the social activities, the cooking, etc. But before getting married, you will want an understanding of who will be taking on the leading role in the day to day finances, managing bills and organizing your financial life.
Notice I did NOT say who will be the financial decision maker – No – who will be the financial organizer! Both parties need to be involved in major financial decisions.
Should We Consider a Prenup Prior to Marriage?
Somewhere along the road, pre-nups were given a bad rap. They are frowned upon, are cause for uncomfortable conversations and often times lend itself to one of the parties feeling an insecurity in the relationship.
However, despite how much income you make today, the assets you have today – there may be good reason to consider a prenup to encourage transparency and protect you both from things you don’t even know exist yet.
Hello Prenup, The premier online platform for affordable, fast, and comprehensive prenuptial agreements, said it best, “Aside from helping you make practical financial plans for your marriage as well as contingency plans for divorce, the process of drafting a prenup helps couples get comfortable talking about money. If there are financial topics that you and/or your partner tend to shy away from, drafting a prenup helps many couples break the ice and normalize talking about everything, including some of the less rosy financial realities.” (2)
Hello Prenup has a number of resources available to cost effectively draft a prenuptial agreement and/or determine if it is the best decision for you both going forward.
If you’re considering a prenup, please refer to Hello Prenup’s Ultimate Prenup Guide – listed under their “Learn” Resources Tab.
Marriage is a partnership. Dream together, plan together…
…and live out the life you both want together by making conversations about finances a normal occurrence. Start these conversations sooner than later to ensure you both get on the same page prior to getting married and continue to have the conversations long after!
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