Questions That Will Help You Understand Your Partner’s Financial History


Money is such a touchy subject for so many, and for good reason. Nothing makes me bristle more than hearing someone drop prices in conversation, whether they are talking about the price they paid as if bragging that they can afford something expensive or even talking about how much they saved on a specific item. Many don’t consider the latter quite such a faux pas, and even I use it in conversation when discussing things that have financial merit – especially in my writing – but I don’t love it. Money should be a private matter between families.

However, money is not a private matter in families. I am a firm believer that you must discuss your finances at every which way when you have a family, beginning with your spouse and even allowing your kids to see how you handle money, why you make the financial decisions you make and how they can make similarly intelligent financial decisions – they learn what they see, so be a good example.

Unfortunately, too many people do not discuss finances before they enter into the formal contract of marriage. If more people did, I firmly believe that there would be fewer divorces (financial strain is one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States) and there would be fewer marriages. It is what it is, after all. If you are planning on getting married, moving in together with someone or getting serious, you have to ask some important questions. Remember that episode of How I Met Your Mother when Lily and Marshall want to buy a house together and only then does Marshall find out about Lily’s excessive credit card debt because it affects the rate they are given on a home loan?

That’s just one of the many reasons it is so vital to speak to your partner to find out as much as you can about his or her financial situation before you get married. Fortunately, we have a list of questions you must ask before you get married or move in together so that you can get to know whether or not this is a financial match made in Heaven (not to say that money is the most important reason to get married, but it does affect your future, your parenting and everything in between).

How do you feel about wants and needs?

This is so important; don’t just assume you already know the answer to this question because you might be surprised just how much you are off on the actual answer. See, for me in particular, I feel that some of the things that others view as just wants are actual needs. I feel that date nights and great shoes are needs rather than wants – and for my own various reasons. My husband sees needs and wants very differently than I, and we’ve had to learn to compromise on that one.

How do you feel about loaning money to friends and family?

There’s nothing wrong with loaning money to someone in a sense; it makes you a good friend, a willing companion and very giving. However, it can also lead to serious financial strain and even strain on personal relationships. My husband and I don’t believe in loaning money to others as we have never been paid back for anything we’ve loaned. Even when I bought my very first car at 19 with my own money, my husband and I let my brother borrow it for an afternoon and he hit a mailbox, did $2500 worth of damage to the car and my parents refused to put the claim on their insurance because they didn’t want it to ‘increase’ their premiums and I ended up paying for the damage on my own.

My parents felt that I shouldn’t have allowed him to borrow the car without taking the responsibility on my own shoulders, and I felt that my brother should have been forced to pay me back and he was not – and never did. So, we don’t believe in loaning anything – I’ve held onto that grudge.

How did your parents handle money when you were growing up?

Kids learn by example more than anything else, which is why it’s so crucial to ask this specific question. The answer that your partner gives provides important insight into how he or she might view finances. A child who grew up watching his parents save and spend wisely, and who was required to work for his own money rather than having it handed to him or her on a silver platter is probably far more financially stable than someone whose parents spent lavishly even when they could not afford it and provided him or her with all the disposable income necessary – it’s not something that teaches financial responsibility.

How did you handle money growing up?

Did he or she work for money? Did he or she save at an early age? Did he or she have credit card debt within the first year of college? How your partner handled money growing up is a good indicator of how he or she might handle it now. But, that doesn’t mean that a poor money handling past means that you spouse hasn’t learned to become financially responsible the hard way. Give him or her a chance to answer and then ask how that has changed since maturing.

Do you, or did you, ever have an issue with debt?

Perhaps your partner has great credit now, but did not in the past. It’s worth asking because you do want to know what kind of person you are dealing with. You do want to know whether or not your spouse has a good mind when it comes to finances, if he or she made mistakes, learned from them or has continued to make the same mistakes over and over again. This is the kind of insight and knowledge you need to have when it comes to your spouse and his or her financial history.

Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images


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