No one ever talks about money. It’s impolite, and for a very understandable reason. No one wants to sit down and discuss how much they make. Some might be embarrassed by their salary for any number of reasons; it’s much higher than everyone else’s or it’s much lower. But have you ever thought that perhaps talking more about money in a more direct sense might be beneficial to many? Let me explain myself; one of the leading causes of divorce, trouble and strife in a marriage is money. There’s not enough. There’s too much. Someone isn’t responsible. Someone is too responsible. Someone wants to have all the control and not share. There is so much about money that people need to know, discuss and consider before marriage – and it might just save some marriages.
And, just maybe, if the world talked more about money more openly, there would be fewer young people with so much debt and such an unclear knowledge of how it works, the importance of their credit score and the way that finances really work. It’s just my opinion, of course, but I just happen to feel that discussing money is something we do openly in my house. We want our kids to have a healthy understanding of it, how it works, where it comes from and how to respect it. And that’s why we will always encourage our kids to understand the most important financial decisions prior to marriage.
Your future spouse’s credit score
So many people enter into a marriage without understanding where their partner falls on the money scale. This is a terrible idea in every sense of the word. Perhaps his low credit score might not deter you from marrying him, but you absolutely do deserve to know what kind of man you are marrying, what your future holds and what considerations you might end up making for marrying him. For example, if you thought that you’d be able to get married and buy a house in your dream neighborhood at a certain budget, you might have to reconsider that depending on his credit score. What you do with this knowledge is a personal decision, but it is imperative that you do arm yourself with this knowledge as a way of ensuring that your finances are in order.
Talk about your money matters
Here’s something that people don’t think to do. Ask your partner how he or she views money. Ask to see his or her budget. Ask to see how he or she fares when paying monthly expenses, when saving and when spending. There are things there that will tell you more about your partner than you ever knew possible, and it’s a good idea so that you can learn to work as a team. Maybe you did not know he’s an uptight money hoarder who does not believe in allowing his wife to have any control over the household finances even in an equal capacity. It’s better to know this now than later on after you’re married and he takes your financial freedom from you.
Your hopes for the future
What do you both want in the future as far as your finances are concerned? Do you want to have kids and stay home and raise them while your partner provides for your family? If so, you need to talk about this now. Your partner’s job might allow for this, or it might mean a huge sacrifice by way of your current lifestyle. It’s imperative that you ask yourself what you want and what you need from your future, and discuss it. Does he believe that you should not stay home with the kids and lose income? Do you want to work after they are born and send them to school? Can you afford that? How many kids can you afford to raise the way that you want to raise them?
How will you manage your money?
This is not something that many people discuss prior to marriage, and it’s kind of surprising to me. When a couple we are close to was married a few years back, they went through a bit of shock when she moved in with him after the wedding. He expected her to contribute to half the household finances when she moved in, but she felt that it was his house and his debt. She paid for her car, but she’d always lived in her parents vacation home, so she never had to pay a mortgage or utilities. They never discussed this prior to moving in together or getting married, and it was difficult for them for a few months while they learned to adjust to one another’s way of life. This is why it’s so important to handle this ahead of time.
When my husband and I got engaged 12 years ago, we made the decision to open a joint bank account and put all our money in there. Some couples just split the household finances down the middle. Others configure what one owes to their monthly expenses based on their total income. We just put everything into one account, remove the amount we need for our expenses at the beginning of the month and put it into our bill account. What’s left after savings and retirement and expenses is ours to do with as we please.
In our house, we have a rule; no large purchases without discussing it with the other. For example, if I want to go shopping with a friend, I’m free to do so and spend freely. However, if I want to buy something with a price tag that exceeds $1000, I have to call my husband so we can make the decision together. The same goes for him. He can buy whatever he wants, but all purchases over $1k must go through ‘the team,’ so that we are always on the same page.
Finally, you have to set goals. You both had your own prior to entering into this relationship, but now you must reconsider them. This means changing your goals, making them bigger and more realistic, being on the same page and making changes. This can include everything from retirement to savings to household expenses to life insurance. Whatever your goals are, come to an agreement and make it work.
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images