Summer is around the corner and for the engaged, wedding season is approaching. Marriage is a milestone in life; yet, many enter into the next phase without asking their spouse some vital questions about money. If you are among the soon-to-be wed, consider starting a conversation using the questions below. Couples who plan their expenses ahead of time are more likely to enjoy their earnings, and less likely to need credit repair intervention.
1. How do you view money?
This is a loaded question, but your fiancé’s answer will help you understand their perspective and how it aligns with yours. Here are a few conversation starters on the subject:
- How do you budget your money? Are you meticulous about your bills and expenses, or are you comfortable to just “wing it?”
- What’s the most you would ever spend on a home, car, piece of clothing, etc.?
- If you received a $1,000 gift or bonus, would you spend it, save it, or a combination of both?
2. What kind of household income do you anticipate?
This question is tricky. While you can’t predict the future, you and your spouse can discuss ideal scenarios. For example:
- Do you both plan to work?
- Is there a situation in which one person would quit their job (e.g., going back to school, the birth of a child, etc.)?
The goal of this question is to agree on a minimum household income and try to stick to it. Without this mindset, you risk overspending and losing control of your finances.
3. Where will we live? Should we rent or buy?
If you haven’t settled on a living situation yet, talk about where you’d like to live vs. your monthly budget.
- Are you open to living in a more affordable part of the country, or are you both willing to spend more in order to live in large city?
- Within the same vein, do you plan to rent or buy?
- How will a down-payment affect your savings?
While some of these plans may be years in the making, talking about them now is the difference between a united front and a disjointed strategy.
4. How do you feel about emergency savings?
A savings account is one thing, but do you need a wider safety net? Paying for supplemental disability insurance, flexible spending accounts for medical expenses and life insurance are all things to consider.
5. How should we plan for retirement?
Saving for retirement is tough — just ask the 80 percent of Americans who haven’t saved enough. Planning for your golden years is even tougher when you don’t talk with your spouse ahead of time. Talk about retirement savings early and often.
- How much should each of you save per month?
- Do you know how and where you want to retire?
While some of the particulars aren’t in focus soon after the wedding, learning how to save together is a decades-long process. Don’t forget about the future.
6. How should we budget for a family?
Kids are expensive, especially if you haven’t planned for them. Talk to your fiancé(e) about:
- How many kids you plan to have
- Baby living expenses and how they factor into your budget, i.e., clothes, food, activities, medical needs, etc.
- Kids’ future expenses such as primary and secondary education, college funds, etc.
7. How should we communicate about money?
Some couples are content to let one person handle the finances, and others like to split up the bills and share household responsibilities. Regardless of what you decide, it is important to have a plan in place before getting married. Miscommunication can lead to confusion and carelessness, two no-no’s when it comes to keeping your finances in check.
8. When is it okay to have fun with our money?
If left unasked, this question can lead to a lot of trouble for newlyweds. If either of you are spendthrifts, it’s important to establish a “fun” budget ASAP. Ask yourselves how much you can afford to spend on entertainment, shopping, and other extras each month. If you have to, consider opening another bank account for fun purposes only. The segregation will protect your necessary spending and reduce your need for credit repair down the road.
9. What should we do when we disagree about spending?
You and your spouse won’t agree on everything. In fact, you may completely disagree on how to spend, save, and generally manage your money. The question is: What should you do when these disagreements arise? Avoiding the subject will put you at greater risk for financial (and marital) trouble. There’s no easy answer for this one, but presenting the topic during your conversation is a good start.
10. Do you have any debts that I should be aware of?
Secrets aren’t the best addition to a marriage, especially when it comes to debt. Be sure you and your soon-to-be put the credit cards on the table before walking down the aisle. Marriage is a life partnership; start by dealing with your debt together.