Planning a wedding comes with many decisions, like which cake flavor, flowers or colors to choose, who to invite, whether or not to have a church wedding, what your first dance song should be —the list goes on. And while your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event, what comes next is equally, if not more, important.
When planning a life together, it’s essential to have meaningful, brutally honest, and sometimes gritty conversations about real-life financial scenarios and how you’ll handle them together.
Differing opinions on finances is one of the top reasons couples divorce, so it’s extremely important to discuss finances ahead of time.
After you’ve said “yes” but before you say “I do,” ask your future spouse these seven questions.
Are You in Debt?
Make sure you know exactly how much debt your fiancé is carrying. Even though you’re not legally responsible for debts your spouse accrued before your marriage, chances are that some of your earnings will go toward paying it down. It could cause serious problems for your marriage if one partner knows nothing of the other’s debt.
Equally as important, you need to ask what kind of debt your fiancé has. Start with these questions:
- Do you have credit card debt?
- Do you have student loans?
- Do you owe friends or family members money?
- Do you have gambling debt?
Get a solid understanding of each other’s debt and agree on principles for how you will pay it off and when.
What’s Your Credit Score?
Your credit score can make or break you. As such, it’s important to talk about your credit history with each other — especially if you are planning to apply for a home or other significant loan. If you’re willing to spend a life together, you should be willing to share your credit score. If your significant other refuses, it could be a red flag that something is amiss.
How Much Are You Willing to Spend on Your Goals and Hobbies?
Keeping your individuality is essential to a healthy marriage. It’s important for your spouse to know about and support your goals, hobbies and dreams. But what if those goals are pricey and don’t offer a worthwhile rate on return?
Talk to your significant other about your goals and dreams — and how far you’re willing to go to achieve them.
Will You Merge Bank Accounts?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but it’s essential to discuss before you tie the knot. Marrying accounts can help couples feel unified and in control of their newly joined life. Should you merge, try to keep the process simple for you and your partner. Tip: Pay bills from one account so both parties can see all transactions.
While merging accounts works for some couples, it can cause additional problems for others. No matter what you decide to do, talk about it and ask each other these additional questions:
- Who will pay for which bills?
- Who will pay for emergency expenses?
- How much money can each of us spend before needing to consult the other?
How Do You Travel?
Chat about your travel expectations, specifically how you like to travel. If one person likes four-star international vacations and the other prefers weekend camping trips, you’re likely to butt heads on how money is spent.
Talk about and negotiate when, where, and how often you’d like to travel in your marriage and how much you’re willing to pay for these getaways.
How Will You Spend Money on Your Future Children?
Raising children is a noble, rewarding, and expensive undertaking. The average family spends hundreds of thousands per child over the course of 18 years. Because it’s likely that you and your fiancé were raised with different financial backgrounds, you probably each have your own ideas on how you’d like to raise your children.
Talk about these future family-related expenses with your fiancé so you can work things out before taking the plunge into parenthood:
- Will we be a two-income family and pay for childcare, or will one of us stay home with the kids? How will we decide who stays home?
- Will our kids go to private or public school?
- Will we pay for our children’s higher education?
- Will we pay for fertility treatments or adoption?
How Much Will You Spend on a Home?
If you’re like a lot of couples, you’ll eventually purchase a home. But before that happens, talk to each other about the neighborhood you want to live in, the type of house you want and how much you’ll spend on it.
In addition to the basic mortgage, it’s important to discuss other financial issues, like how much you’re willing to invest in building, renovating, decorating and securing your home. Conversations about home security and insurance are also important, as couples have differing opinions about how to protect their property and assets.