Love might conquer all, but it’s not going to make life enjoyable if you and your perfect credit, debt-free lifestyle and big savings marry a man with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, no savings and bad credit – especially since it means you’ll be the one buying the houses and taking care of the family. Poor financial decisions can affect a relationship in a very negative way. In fact, money is the leading cause of divorce in most cases. To ensure you’re marriage is rock solid from the start, you have to have a difficult conversation about finances with your future spouse. To help you get started; here are the questions you must ask.
What’s your credit score?
Hands down, this is the most important question you have to ask your future spouse. It’s not really all that romantic, or even comfortable; but it is necessary. If you have a glorious 800 credit score and his is somewhere like 510, you’re not all that financially compatible. Of course, there are always some exceptions to every rule (refer to next question for further explanation) but for the most part, if one of you has really bad credit and the other really good, it could be a relationship red flag.
Why is your credit the way it is?
Here you go; sometimes bad things happen to good people. Perhaps you are marrying a man who was previously married and his ex unbeknownst to him ruined his credit. Perhaps he was in the military and stationed overseas while his ex-wife used him repeatedly to get credit, stopped paying the bills and ruined him financially. Perhaps he lost his job when the economy crashed and has since been doing everything he can to fix his credit. Ask this question; you might be surprised by the answer and it might make you reconsider your compatibility.
Do you have debt?
You need to know what you’re getting into when you marry someone. He might not have any debt, or he might have a lot. You need to know. Additionally, you need to know what kind of debt he has. He might not think he has any debt because he pays his credit card off in full each month. However, if he has a car note, mortgage or even student loans, he has debt that you need to know about before you get married.
Do you have savings?
Yet another imperative and important question to present; savings is very important. You also need to elaborate a bit on this question. Ask him what he’s saving for, or why he’s not saving. Ask if his savings is something he plans on using to buy a house or pay for his future child’s college. Ask him if he has a rainy day savings account or an emergency fund. It’s important you are both on the same page about what savings is used for.
Do you have retirement accounts?
If you marry this man, you will retire with this man. Or maybe you won’t retire if you cannot afford to. You need to know the answer to this question. You also need to know how much he has in his retirement accounts, whether or not he’s contributing the maximum amount allowed and you need to ask him what kind of accounts he has in his possession.
How much do you make annually?
It’s not the kind of question you typically ask on a first date, but there are some things you do need to ask when things start to get serious. This is not a question that should come with such a negative connotation, but it does. You need to know this. Are you marrying a man that can support his weight around the house, or a guy who can’t?
What are your annual expenses?
This is an important question. You need to know this because it helps you budget. It also helps you to put things into perspective. Does he have more outgoing than incoming? Does he have child support? Does he have anything left over? Does he have a ton of wasted bills that he could be saving on? You know this, and you can start making better financial decisions together.
Do you believe in having separate bank accounts?
This is important for all couples no matter which side of the fence you are on. Do you believe in separating your accounts? Some people do, and some people don’t. If he doesn’t and you do, it might lead to a “my money, your money, not our money,” kind of fight that might end badly. You need to know how you each view money. Personally, my husband and I are both “our” money kind of people. What we make goes into one account and we share that. But we also discuss all purchases over a certain dollar amount with one another prior to making them to save on arguments.
Do you budget?
Here’s something everyone should understand; you should budget even if you don’t have to. A budget is a good idea for everyone, no matter how much money you have or don’t have. If he doesn’t budget, ask if he’d be willing to let you help him come up with one. It’s good practice, and it’s great for a healthy financial relationship.
Are you a big spender?
No, you’re not trying to figure out if you’ll get a bunch of little blue boxes on holidays, you’re asking because you need to know. If you are also a big spender, this could be problematic depending on your financial situations. If you are not, you might be resentful of his large purchases in the future and he of your ‘tight’ ways with money. Also, you don’t want to marry a man who doesn’t understand the value of a new pair of Choos (so long as you can comfortably afford them) because marrying a man you feel you have to hide things from is not a good foundation for a long-lasting marriage.
How do you feel about being financially accountable to me?
You both have to be financially accountable to one another. This means being open and honest about your spending habits, your money issue and everything financial. He needs to be accountable to you about his spending and earning habits, and you him. You are a team, and you have to work and play as one every single day. It’s not about having control over the other person. It’s about having to be accountable for decisions that affect not just you, but your spouse and your future kids. If you’re not financially accountable now, how will it affect your future? Do you want to have free reign now and one day have to tell your kids they can’t go on a field trip or have the birthday party they want because you can’t afford it thanks to your lack of financial accountability? No, you don’t.
How do you view finances as a couple?
Together, you need to have the same game face. This means you have to ask him how he views your financial situation as a married couple rather than as individuals; does he see it the same way you see it? If not, it could pose some serious problems in your future. Go ahead and ask now, and see if perhaps you need to find a way to work this out or say your goodbyes.
Do you prefer splitting bills down the middle and paying them together?
It’s a good question. Some couples prefer to split the bills down the middle and each contribute the same amount. Let’s say your monthly expenses are $2,500. Some couples will each put $1250 of their own earnings into a bill account and go from there. Other couples prefer to pay their own separate bills and share household bills. Other couples, however, like to split their bills based on income. For example, if you make $100,000 per year and he only makes $50,000, he might not think it’s fair that you both pay the same amount when he makes half what you make.
Do you prefer to designate bills?
This is a question to ask if you can’t agree on the above question. Instead of splitting down the middle, some couples designate. Say you make more, maybe you pay the biggest bill, such as the mortgage, and he pays some of the smaller bills. It’s a reasonable consideration, but you have to ask the question to know the answer to it.
Do you have insurance?
This is important. Insurance is very important. You both need it, and you both have to have certain coverage. For example, perhaps you want kids one day, but your insurance doesn’t cover maternity. Does his have that option for a spouse? These are things you absolutely must know prior to getting married – and especially prior to starting your family. Things like medical insurance, dental, optical and even life matter. These are the things that will help you when you’re at your worst.
Do you want kids?
Well, do you? This is a financial question and a good question on two levels. If one of you does and the other doesn’t, you’re just a bad match in general. However, if you’re on the same page, you need to know if you can afford them, and this is that gateway question that needs to be asked. If you want kids, you have to consider some serious financial situations prior to having them – or getting married.
How do you want to raise the kids, financially?
Do you believe in buying all brand new baby items for each child or using hand-me-downs? Do you believe in private school or public school? Do you believe in preschool or a parent being home with the kids? Do you believe in breast-feeding or bottle feeding? Do you believe in hospital births or home births? All of these questions are financial; because each one has a different financial meaning for your family.
Will one of us be able to afford to stay home with the kids?
Everyone has a different opinion on this, it seems. Do either of you want to be a stay-at-home parent? A work-from-home parent? Do you believe in raising your kids at home until school starts? Can you afford to do this? Perhaps you’ve always assumed you’d stay home with your kids, and he believes that staying home with the kids is a terrible idea. Maybe his mom worked outside the home and he feels he missed out as a child and doesn’t want you to work, even though you would like to work. Perhaps you can’t stay home because it’s not an option as far as finances go. It’s something you must discuss.
Do we want to be homeowners?
Here’s another big question. Buying a home is a big expense to undertake. There is so much more than just paying for it monthly. It’s not like renting, where you have someone else take care of your problems without having to pay. It’s an expense. You have to pay your mortgage, utilities you might not pay as a renter, lawn maintenance, repairs, updates, fixes, insurance, taxes and you have to have a large down payment. This is a question you have to ask because it’s only the biggest purchase you’ll ever make in your life. You have to be on the same page. Perhaps he’s not interested in being responsible for his own lawn or repairs, or maybe you never thought you’d want to own a home. You have to know.
Can we cut back our expenses?
This is the most important question of all. Can you? Even if you don’t ‘need’ to cut back your expenses, you should. Just because you have plenty left over at the end of the day doesn’t mean you aren’t financially sound. If you’re paying wasted expenses, you need to cut them down so you can save more. Just because you’re already saving doesn’t mean you can waste money elsewhere when you could use that for something more important, like additional savings. Take a look at your expenses and your finances together and see where you can cut corners and still enjoy your life.
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