Getting married means combining your life with your new spouse – all aspects of it. Financially speaking, you want to be sure you’re on the same page early on. Have an understanding of each other’s financial situation, goals, and how you’ll move forward as an economic unit.
How Much Can We Afford?
Hopefully, this came up long before anyone said, “I do.” One spouse may want to go straight into homeownership. If the other wants to take it slower and save, it could cause some major stress in the relationship. Figure out if you two even want to own a home. If the answer is yes, find out how soon that can realistically happen.
You might decide to rent instead. You’ll still need to know how much rent you can comfortably afford each month. You won’t have to worry about major home repairs and property taxes. But you will have to take into account your apartment isn’t a liquid asset. It’s a good idea for everyone to consider the differences in renting versus buying before they make their choice.
Do both of you need your own car? How new of a car do you expect to drive? How often will you want to upgrade? These are all good questions to ask about how you’ll handle your car situation. Take into account insurance and repair costs.
If you have some extra money after bills are taken care of, you’ll want to agree with what to do with it. Some people prefer to put it all into savings, and others like having it to spend on leisure. Decide which is most important to each of you, and be sure there’s a balance.
It could cause conflicts if one spouse wants to devote extra earnings to savings, and the other wants it to go towards that vacation cruise you’ve been dreaming of. There are plenty of ways to decide together where you’ll direct extra income.
What Are Some Long-Term Goals?
Do you dream of owning an RV and traveling the country in the next ten years? Or perhaps your goal is to retire early. Or your spouse wants to save enough to start their own business. Discuss any future dreams, and understand which ones are important enough to turn into a reality.
Do you plan on having children? Hopefully, this question was also answered before you reached the altar. If you do want children, how will you prepare for them financially? Will you be able to afford the extra space it takes to start a family? How much will you save for their education?
On the other hand, many couples choose to be child-free. You can decide together how you’ll handle the income you save by not spending it on offspring. Maybe you want children of the four-legged variety. Will you be able to support them in every way that they need?
Many of us have extensive travel dreams. Does one of you want to see the world before they turn 40? How many vacation days can each of you take a month? How many vacations does each of you expect in a year?
What is Your Financial Personality?
How Much Debt Do You Have?
We live in a day and age where most people are saddled with student loan debt. It can take years or even decades to pay it off. You want to make sure your spouse is aware of your debt, and how you plan to pay it off. If you don’t have a plan yet, you can create one together.
If you don’t have student loan debt, what about credit card debt? And how will you go about paying off lines of credit in the future? What guidelines do you expect both of you to follow regarding using credit cards?
Frugal Vs. Extravagant
How each of you handles money is important. You don’t need to have identical mindsets on finances, but you do want to know and understand how each of you thinks in that regard. Is one of you more responsible with finances? Does one of you have trouble handling money?
Be sure you both understand your household budget. If you go over budget on something, you’ll have to put your heads together about how to avoid it in the future. It can be a lot of pressure for one spouse to scrutinize and monitor the finances, while the other one is reckless with money.
Try to be on an equal playing field when it comes to managing finances. Money is one of the most common reasons couples fight and even divorce. If you can’t compromise on finances, it might be time to consider couples counseling. Creating mutual financial goals is one of the features of couples therapy.
How Much Emergency Savings Do You Need?
Some people don’t feel comfortable unless they have several thousand earmarked for an emergency. Others have no emergency fund. It’s important for each spouse to feel comfortable with how much they have in backup funds.
Consider the expenses you have and what expenses could come up. If you have a house, some costly repairs could surprise you out of the blue. If you have a pet, you might face some emergency vet bills. Agree on how much you need in emergency savings to feel secure.
You’re On the Same Side
When you’re in a committed relationship, one thing to remember is you’re a team. It shouldn’t be one spouse versus the other in any situation, including finances. It’s about tackling challenges as a unit and overcoming them together.
Finances can cause discord in the best of marriages, and clear communication is the best line of defense. Starting with a mutual understanding early on means starting with a solid foundation.