Marriage is a huge decision and an exciting time in anyone’s life. It is easy to get caught up in this excitement and focus on the ceremony and reception. However, sometimes couples are so focused on wedding that they forget to consider the marriage that comes after. One of the factors to securing a happy future is discussing key issues before the wedding. Perhaps the largest issue that must be addressed is financial. It may not seem very romantic to discuss money while you’re picking flowers, but certain questions are necessary.
Perhaps one of the most concealed issues prior to marriage is the question of debt. Who has the debt and how much? It’s important to disclose this information at the outset of the engagement, especially if you have a lot of debt. Perhaps your partner won’t mind helping you pay it off and straighten out your finances. However, if you hide the information until after the marriage, you’re just asking for trouble. Be honest about how much debt you’re bringing into the marriage and avoid the resentment that will occur later on.
Before you get married, you need to decide if you’ll have a joint bank account or maintain individual accounts. If you trust each other completely, at least on a financial level, you may only need joint accounts. Otherwise, you might want to have a joint account for joint expenses and individual accounts for individual expenses. This makes each person responsible for any wants and needs that may occur.
Who Pays That Bill?
If both partners make the same amount of money (or almost the same amount), then it’s usually simplest to allow everyone to pay for half of the expenses. In many cases, one partner may earn significantly more than the other. Perhaps one partner is a stay-at-home-parent. In this case, you really need to discuss who pays for what. If you just assume that you already know the answer to this question, you will likely experience resentment towards each other at some point.
What Do We Do If We Lose Our Jobs?
Have a candid conversation about what to do in the event of financial disaster. What if you lose your jobs? Discuss how you would manage to pay the bills for a few months. If you don’t have any cash reserves, consider how you will build up enough savings to survive if the worst happens and both of you are laid off at the same time.
Long-term goals are a good thing, but they need to be discussed. If one of you wants to take expensive vacations and the other wants enough money to pay for your children’s education, you may have to have a discussion about how to deal with these different goals. Perhaps they can both be met on your current income. Perhaps not. If not, explain to each other why you have those particular goals and try to compromise.
You should also have financial goals as a couple, things that you both want to accomplish. Before walking down the aisle, create a plan. Outline the steps you need to take in order to accomplish your shared goals. Don’t forget to address how you will afford large purchase. Will you borrow money or save? It may seem like a simple question, but it can drastically change how you relate as a couple.
While there is no right or wrong when it comes to spending styles, it is important to discuss how each of you likes to spend money. Partners with very different spending styles may find themselves arguing over money on a frequent basis. If one of you is responsible and saves judiciously and the other racks up the credit cards every day, a clash is almost inevitable. The two of you could end up resenting each other all over a little money.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get married. But get married with a plan. Make a list of income and expenses and indicate who is responsible for paying what. Then discuss disposable income and what you should do with it. You may both have to compromise. Perhaps the saver agrees to spend a little and the spender agrees to stop using credit cards. The marriage can still work if you both approach it with open eyes.
When Do We Consult Each Other?
It’s important to establish clear rules when it comes to buying various items. While you probably don’t need to consult each other when buying a head of lettuce, it may be unwise to buy a new car without discussing it. Make sure each partner understand when a purchase needs to be discussed beforehand.
How Do We Invest?
Investing is wise, but it’s also a big deal. It’s not something one person should handle alone, not when that person is married. Discuss investments early on to make sure you both agree when it comes to what investments you hold as a married couple.
One of the largest issues cited in divorces cases is money. How much is available and what is done with it is important to people, including you and your prospective spouse. It may seem awkward to discuss money before you’re married, but understanding each other financially is one of the most powerful things you can do to save your marriage.