Your wedding is approaching, and you’re getting excited. You and your future spouse have talked about where you want to live, how many kids you want to have, and what kind of lifestyle you’d like to enjoy. But have you discussed your financial health? Numerous surveys have shown that money is one of the main causes of conflict for young marriages, so you can’t put off the discussion.
To help you along, here are five important financial questions to ask your fiancé (or fiancee).
1. What are our financial goals?
As a married couple, you’ll no longer be mere individuals, but will be a team. As such, you need to make sure you have the same (or compatible) financial goals. Focus your discussion around short-range, mid-range, and long-range goals.
A short-range goal will typically fall within one to two years, and might be something like paying off the wedding expenses. A mid-range goal will typically take two to six years, and might include paying off your student loan debt or buying a new car. A long-range goal will typically take over six years, and might include buying a new home or saving for retirement.
2. Can we live below our means?
Assuming that both of you work, can you live off of one salary and save the other? In other words, is it possible for you to live below your means? If you can do that, it would allow you to accumulate savings very quickly, which would give you a greater range of options in the future. You may eventually want to start a family and have one spouse stay home. Or maybe you’ll want to change careers or start a new business.
The more you save now, the more you’ll be able to do later.
3. What are our assets and liabilities?
You absolutely need to discuss this before you get married, so you know what kind of lifestyle you can enjoy. If you don’t know what’s coming in and going out, you’ll never be able to make a lasting financial plan.
You should also go over your assets and liabilities after you’re married as well — I recommend you do it once a year. That will help you stay on top of changes in your financial situation.
4. Should we have joint or separate accounts?
Should you open a joint account for paying bills, or should you maintain separate accounts? I’ve found with my clients that it helps to have a joint account for bill paying, and to have one of the spouses handle that role. There’s nothing wrong with rotating that person periodically, but having one person pay the bills helps ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
5. How much can we spend without consulting the other?
What’s the dollar limit for a purchase that you can make on your own without consulting your spouse? Obviously, no married couple can sustain their finances if they’re each spending large amounts of money without letting the other person know. The limit will change depending on the couple and their financial means, but there must be a limit.
Those five questions should give you a good start in talking about your finances. As with most things in marriage, success comes down to communication. If you’re communicating with and listening to your spouse, you’ll be well on your way to building a healthy financial future together.