Did you know, "about three in 10 couples disagree on finances at least once a month, most commonly about major purchases or spending habits"?
(from Ameriprise Study study on couples and money 9/2016)
These are my top 7 questions you should discuss with your partner before you say "I Do." These questions will help you get clarity on each of your financial situations and explore how you see your financial future together.
*Pro Tip: Grab a glass of wine and take-out for a relaxed setting.
1. What are my annoying spending habits?
Starting right out of the gate with a tough one. Tell your partner if you have issues with the way they spend money. In return, be open to give and receive constructive criticism. This is the time to get out anything that bothers you so you don't go into your marriage with harbored feelings. Try to understand how these habits bother your spouse and decide if it something you can work on or negotiate. Once it's out in the open, agree that these feelings won't be swept under the rug, and that you will have open communication in the future.
2. How did your parents manage their money while you were growing up?
We learn our money languages from our parents. Whether we want to be the exact opposite of them or the same, when you start to think about how you spend money you will see a direct correlation to the way your parents managed theirs. We are all taught different money habits that are subconsciously engrained in us. By telling our partners about our money experiences growing up, it gives them a better understanding of why we do what we do.
3. What is your current financial picture?
Discuss what is going on in each of your financial lives. Do one or both of you have debt of any kind? If so, how much? Will your joint money be paying the debts or will it remain the responsibility of the person who owns it? Log into your bank, credit card, loan, and investment accounts and get familiar with your partners balance sheet.
4. What are your own money goals?
Do you want to retire early? Live in a mansion? Own a yacht? Are you happy living in a studio apartment? Do you see your kids going to public or private school? There are so many what-ifs in the future, but discuss what you want your future to look like. If it includes a luxurious lifestyle and your soon-to-be spouse would be happy living in a cardboard box, you will need to learn how to compromise on what is worth it to spend money on for both of you.
5. Who is the bread winner and are both of you okay with that?
Sometimes when one person makes more than their spouse, it can cause rifts. Discuss any issues there are now and how they can be resolved. When you have kids, would one of you want to stay home with them? What if a spouse decided to go back to school? Would you both be okay supporting the family during periods of uneven income?
6. How are we going to manage our joint finances?
To combine or not to combine, that is the question. There are pluses and minuses for both and one way is not always right. Each spouse should have a say in if they want to combine, or not, and how much. It comes down to a personal choice for each couple. In my own experience I have found creating a joint account where household spending is paid and having separate checking accounts for personal items has worked best. It is called YMO, yours, mine and ours. Discuss what you think would work for you.
A prenup is not the most romantic topic, but definitely one that needs to happen before "I Do". A prenuptial agreement can protect any wealth thus far you have accumulated and can draw out what would happen if you were to get divorced. Even though we never hope or think we will get divorced from our spouses, having a document already in place can ease some of the stress and confusion that comes with the end of a marriage.
If you are heading to the altar soon and have not had any discussions about money, now is the time. Before you say "I Do" set up a good line of communication about your own and soon to be joint spending. Strong financial communication leads to less fights about money and an overall happier relationship.