Did you know that only about ⅓ of couples talk about money before getting married or moving in together? Before I married my seriously awesome husband, I was determined NOT to be one of those couples, so I asked him a bunch of questions about finances.
I thought we’d talked about all the important money issues. We both had pretty manageable debt situations, and we’d discussed me staying at home when we had kids. What else could there be to talk about? Right? Ha!
In the relatively short time I’ve been married, I’ve realized there were a lot of topics we did NOT cover. We could definitely have avoided some misunderstandings about money if we’d talked about a few additional things before getting married.
The following questions cover money topics that have come up in my marriage.
They’re not your typical money questions for couples either; they go a bit deeper than many of the tips on the internet.
While it’s still good to ask your partner some more basic money questions for couples, I think the questions below are just as vital.
1.What Is It Okay to Go Into Debt For?
Before getting married, I talked to my then fiance about debt. I felt pretty sure that, since he generally felt debt was bad, and so did I, we wouldn’t have many disagreements about this.
But even though neither of us loves debt, it turns out we both have certain things we’re still comfortable taking on debt for. Not always the same things.
We both agree that education, buying a house, and buying a car are okay things to take on debt for, but we disagree on a few other significant things.
We’ve learned to compromise now, and it really helps to KNOW what the other person is okay with/not okay with.
2. How Much Credit Card Debt Is Okay?
One of the common things people are told to find out before getting hitched is how much debt their partner has. But while finding out the amount of your partner’s debt is important, I don’t think you should stop there (like my husband and I did).
You should also ask how much credit card debt your significant other is comfortable taking on in the future. Because, while a person’s current level of debt is a good indicator of spending habits, it doesn’t tell all.
It’s possible that your partner might have low credit card debt simply because his/her salary is more than enough to support a single person.
However, when you get married and expenses get bigger (house, kids, etc.), your partner might be comfortable having a higher credit card balance.
While some people like to use their credit cards to buy things they couldn’t otherwise afford, others aren’t comfortable putting anything on a credit card that they can’t pay back immediately. It’s a good idea to know which camp your significant other falls into.
3. How Quickly Do You Like to Pay Off Debt?
Another topic that I didn’t think to cover before marriage is how quickly my partner likes to pay off debt. I have a huge aversion to debt, so I always want to put every left-over cent towards debt repayment.
My husband is a bit more balanced in his approach. He likes paying off debt, but he likes to put some of our extra money towards savings and other important purchases.
I’ve learned to compromise on this, and it hasn’t been a huge issue for us, but it’s one of those things that could be difficult, depending on your situation.
4. Do You Want to Buy or Rent a House Long-Term?
The question of whether to rent or buy is also an important one, so talk about it early on. You may want to buy a house so badly that you’re okay scrimping and saving or going into major debt. On the other hand, your partner might decide it makes more sense to rent long-term.
We’ve done the buying and the renting thing and both agree that long-term we’d like to own a home. But if my husband had wanted to rent for the rest of our lives, that would’ve been really hard for me to accept!
Living arrangements are a big deal, so make sure you and your partner discuss which option you’d both like to pursue and come to an agreement.
5. Should You Furnish Your Home With New or Used Items?
Once you and your partner have bought or rented a home, you’ll be faced with yet another question: how do you fill up the house? This question applies mostly to people who haven’t yet furnished a home (often younger people).
To make sure you’re on the same page with your significant other, ask your partner whether he thinks you should you go out and buy everything for your home immediately or wait and buy furnishings gradually. Does he wanna buy brand new or secondhand furnishings?
Find out if your partner wants to take on debt to buy a couch, television, and a headboard, or if those are things that you should save for? Is your significant other okay with a small television, or does it ‘need’ to be big screen?
Thankfully my husband and I ended up agreeing on the answers to most of these questions with one exception (i.e. big screen television), but many people will have a harder time agreeing.
Since furnishing your house can cost a lot, it’s a good idea to be on the same page as your spouse.
6. Should You Purchase an Updated House or an Older House?
Another important question to discuss with your partner is what kind of accommodation you want to rent or buy.
Do you want an updated place or is an older home okay? If you decide on a newer place, what kind of sacrifices are you okay/not okay making for a really nice home?
For example, a large mortgage payment may mean you can’t afford to go on vacations or to have one parent stay at home with children.
For some people, having a really nice home makes those sacrifices okay. For others, having extra money for living expenses is more important than having an up-to-date home. Make sure you and your significant other feel the same or are willing to compromise.
7. What Size of Purchase Needs to Be Discussed With a Partner?
Everybody has a different comfort level when it comes to making purchases without the approval of a partner, so it’s important to talk about it.
I have to be honest here, my husband and have never really discussed the amount of money we’d be comfortable spending without talking to each other, but we’ve lucked out, and we usually seem to agree.
But, I know some people who ended up with a partner that does not share the same ‘limit’ they do. There are partners out there who feel it’s okay to come home with large, surprise purchases, and that can cause some serious resentment!
If you set a concrete amount for purchases that must be discussed with a spouse, then you never have to wonder if the other spouse will be unhappy with your purchase.
8. Should You Use Joint or Separate Checking Accounts?
The question of whether to have joint or separate checking accounts is a critical one. Some people feel strongly that financial unity can only be achieved through joint accounts.
Other people might feel like it’s important for each person to have their own credit score and independent financial security and therefore choose separate checking accounts.
My husband and I have tried both joint and separate accounts, and I felt like it was way harder for us to make financial decisions in a unified way when we had separate accounts.
I wouldn’t have been happy continuing to manage our bank accounts separately, and luckily my husband agreed with me. By having the ‘checking account’ discussion early on, you can save yourself a lot of headaches.
9. Are You Willing to Use a Budget?
At the beginning of our marriage, neither I nor my husband had a habit of using a strict budget, but I just kind of assumed that if we needed to budget later on that he’d be willing.
Luckily, I was right. As life got more expensive, my husband was supportive of budgeting and tracking spending–it probably helped to know that we’d run out of money without a budget!
However, there are some people who feel that budgeting and tracking spending is too restrictive. If you’re a budgeter and your partner is really against budgeting (or vice versa), it’s important to know that from the get go.
It’s also important to know if there are circumstances that would get your partner to agree to budgeting, or if there’s just no way he/she will ever come around.
10. Are You Willing to Make Sacrifices for One Parent to Stay Home with Children?
Before getting married, my husband and I discussed that, if it was possible, we’d like for me to stay at home when we had kids. But we failed to discuss what ‘if it was possible’ meant. Now, this section is obviously mostly for people who want one parent at home with children, but it’s also important to ask your partner how much he is willing to sacrifice for other important goals.
It wasn’t until we had a baby that I realized that we’d have to sacrifice big-time if I was going to stay home. In fact, it would mean cutting out 100% of extra spending. We could NEVER eat out or buy anything extra.Yikes!
Technically it was still “possible” for us to live on one income, but we couldn’t imagine living that way–I feel so spoiled for saying that, but it’s the truth. Luckily, I was able to find a few income streams that have allowed me to stay home with my baby.
But, if I hadn’t been able to figure out some at-home income I think I would have gone back to work. Neither of us was prepared to sacrifice 100% of our extra spending.
Having one parent stay home requires big sacrifices, and you need to be on the same page as your partner when it comes to what you’re willing/not willing to give up.
11. What Are Your Financial Goals?
It’s also a good idea to make sure you and your significant other are on the same page about financial goals. For example, does your partner make it a priority to save for travel, retirement, car replacements, or does he/she feel that some of those expenses could be put on a line of credit?
What is your partner’s goal income? Does he or she feel comfortable accepting a lower salary in exchange for a better work-life balance, or does your partner value having a high paying job?
What kind of retirement would you both like to save for? Do you plan to travel, or live a more low-key life? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you plan for your future.
12. How Will You Handle Finances If One Person Makes More Money than the Other?
I think it’s absolutely necessary to talk about what you’ll do if one person makes more money than the other. In my house, the answer to this question is that we share all money equally.
I generally think that’s the healthiest way to do things, but perhaps your situation is different than mine, or maybe your partner feels differently.
For example, some people choose to pay bills and essential expenses together, and the respective partners can do what they like with the rest of their earnings. Whatever your opinion, make sure your partner feels the same or is willing to compromise.
Even though it can be awkward to chat about money with your significant other, being prepared makes things easier. And you definitely don’t want to get married without talking about finances!
So use the list above to start a conversation with your partner and find out about his or her views on money. You’ll get to know each other even better and you’ll be able to move forward with more peace of mind.
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