As unromantic as it sounds, the topic of money in a marriage is one of the big questions. It’s right up there with kids, living arrangements, and chores. But the money issue goes far beyond a prenuptial agreement. It filters down into everyday life. To drive the point home, here are some questions you may or may not have given thought too.
What’s Your Debt Load?
Now this isn’t a question to be asked on the first date. This is for when the ring on the finger and the guest list is being hashed out. If your going to live together, you need to know what the bills are. Is there a black mark on your credit? Can your credit scores even get you that house you want? For most people just starting out, the answer is no. Sit down together and make a list of what each of you is bringing to the table. The good, the bad, and yes the ugly. Better to make an action plan before you have to file bankruptcy.
Separate Bank Accounts or a Joint One?
Deciding to keep separate bank accounts is not necessarily a sign of mistrust. One point to argue in favor for it is you won’t need to fight over where the money goes.
Not saying a disagreement won’t arise as to what you do with “your” money. But, the fact that it is “your money” can help settle those disagreements. A word of caution if you do go the split route, make sure you both have assigned bills, so that one is not paying more than the other. Another warning if you stick with the traditional joint arrangement, couples who don’t communicate tend to overdraw.
Discuss Big Purchases: Will it feed us? Will it help keep a roof over our heads? Is it a necessity?
One of the biggest no-nos in marriage is buying large items like cars, big screen televisions, and land without discussing it with their spouse. Gifts are nice, but only if you have saved up the money yourself to give it. No dipping into the 410K. Couples who make large purchases without discussing them are setting themselves up for resentment in the marriage.
When you do discuss it, ask will it put food on the table? Can we wear it? Can it be used for the house? Is it something we need to accomplish a goal? If the answer is no than the conversation has to turn to why you want to make the purchase.
Do You Have Any Vices?
What seems like innocent hobbies or fun when your dating can become real problems once the wedding bells have chimed. Things like gambling, bar hopping, or even shopping can test the boundaries of a marriage. If the credit card is maxed out, it could be because of binge shopping or online porn sites.
The problem with these expenses is not only does the strain of the spent money wear on the couple. But so do the esteem issues and bruised egos. If you or your partner have a money weakness, then consider counseling. These things don’t tend to surface as problems until the marriage has begun. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, and recognize it in yourself as well.
It’s All About Prevention
Of course there are going to be money topics you didn’t plan on. Unplanned pregnancies, wind-falls, or disasters like fires or floods, you can’t plan for everything. But the important thing to remember is to be open about the subject of money. Have the discussion right up front. When you have a mutual understanding about the small expenses, it will make the larger and unexpected expenses easier to deal with. You’ll have a better method of preventing marital financial pitfalls.