Not only can financial stress affect your health, it can affect your relationships. Financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce and strain among many family relationships. Financial problems may lead to other problems such as domestic violence, poverty, and homelessness. Many people think, “it won’t happen to me.”
I’m writing this post as a witness of how financial problems can cause great stress in relationships, especially in marriage. It’s important to talk about finances and expectations before you get married. I know, we often get caught up in the feelings and excitement of our new-found love. However, it’s important to be open and honest with one another.
I’ve come up with some questions/suggestions, mostly related to finances, that should be discussed before marriage. Some of these questions should be discussed continuously, even after marriage, because people grow and change.
Get to Know One Another
Seems simple enough, right? For some people it is, for others it’s difficult. Ask a variety of questions, sit down and talk over a cup of coffee. Ask simple questions about what they wanted to do when they were a child or about previous pets. Get to know where they’ve been and what made them who they are now.
I’ve found that one great way to learn more about your significant other is to play board games with them. See how they react and treat the other players (especially if the other players are children.) It’ll show their true character and they won’t be filtered.
Why Are You Getting Married?
It may feel strange but ask your significant other why he/she wants to get married. If there’s a hesitation, maybe it’s time to dig deeper. Ask them if they feel lonely, and if they think that they are financially secure.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you’re planning on spending the rest of your life with this person, why should you be afraid?
What do you want out of life as a couple?
Do you want to grow together spiritually? Do you want a traveling companion? Or as you grow older, someone who can be your best friend? Ask one another. Each of us is looking for different characteristics in someone… but it’s important that this person meets your expectations and that you’re not settling.
What are your plans in the next 5 years? 10 years? 30 years?
Maybe one of you wants to travel abroad, or go back to school. It’s important to know what your significant other’s goals and expectations are and how you fit into those goals. It’s important for you to know that they’ve thought about how you fit in. For example, if they go back to school, what about children? Are you going to be the primary source of income? Although we don’t have all the answers, it’s important to know that the person has thought about it.
What are your personal values?
Do you value giving money to charity? Do you value volunteering?
Make sure that your significant other knows what you value and respects it. They don’t necessarily have to value the same things as you, but they need to be comfortable with what you value.
Are you a saver or a spender?
Neither is a bad thing, unless it is excess. Talk about it. Are you frugal? Do you enjoy clipping coupons? Do you get a thrill out of investing? Or is your thrill from buying a new pair of shoes or going to a broadway show?
Talk about what you do to reward yourself or what you’d do with the money from a bonus check. Some people want to invest that money or put it into savings. Others want to buy a new car or enjoy a “night on the town.” Each one of us constitutes “taking care of ourselves” as something different. Again, as long as it’s not in excess, it’s okay… it’s important that you take care of yourself.
Do you have a budget in place?
Have you each developed a budget while still being single? What do the budgets look like? Have you compared? We each budget and prioritize our needs differently. Comparing budgets is a great way to get to know one another and to discuss priorities. For example, some want a larger house if it means having an older car. Others want a newer car if it means getting a smaller house.
If you don’t have a budget in place, it’s time to make one. If not separately, then together. Not only does it show that you are responsible with your money, it also shows that you love the other person. Why? You care enough to take the time out to plan your lives together. It makes things more personal and I guarantee it will be a great bonding experience.
It’s important for a couple to compare and prioritize. It’s also important that you two talk about income and expenses. One may still be paying off student loans. How will that fit into both of your budgets? What if there is credit card debt? How will that be payed off?
Currently, where is your money going? Where will it go when you get married?
Who is going to be responsible for paying the bills on time?
It’s important to talk about who is going to be the bookkeeper in the relationship. This person should be responsible for paying the bills and keeping up with the funds. Sometimes, couples work well as a team. They are each able to budget effectively and pay bills on time. It’s something that needs to be discussed because it can help prevent fights about “did you pay the bill?”
Should you have a joint checking account or separate accounts or both?
It’s important to discuss how you want to keep your money. Again, it’s important to be open and honest with one another. Some prefer to have a join account and have all expenses taken out of it. Some people prefer 2 private accounts and a joint account for expenses. It’s up to you as a couple. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, as long as you’re honest.
It wouldn’t be fun to find out about a “secret” account the other person has had open for years, would it?
How much do we owe in debts?
Sit down and talk about your debts with one another. It may be that you’re already paying a mortgage on a house, or you have some student loans. Discuss how you plan on paying for them.
What are our financial goals?
Discuss retirement and when you play to retire. Discuss debts and how you plan to pay them off. Maybe one of your goals is getting an education. How will you fund these goals? Are they short-term, or long-term? Are both of you going to fund these goals?
What are future plans for a home?
Talk about whether or not you want to own a home. Think about what is required with owning a home such as how you’re going to come up with the down payment for the house and how to pay for the mortgage.
If you want to rent, talk about prices and what you can and cannot afford.
Do we both know where our important financial documents are located?
It’s extremely important to keep everything in order before you sign the documents to get married.
Do you want to have children? Do we want to have children?
Talk about whether or not you want to have children. If you do, how many do you want to have? It’s really important for couples to talk about this. If one of you wants children and the other does not want any at all, this could potentially cause a lot of problems later.
Of course, our opinions change. Sometimes we don’t want children, then we do. This is where open-mindedness becomes important.
Talking about children is also vital to planning for your future successfully. Children are expensive… and there may be other topics that come up as a result such as college planning or something such as what school district you want to live in for the best academic education.
How will we make decisions together?
What will be the process for making decisions together? Will you set aside “family time” once a week or will you flip a coin? Each couple makes decisions differently, but it’s important that both of you agree on how to do it.
Can we both forgive?
We make mistakes, we’re human. But can both of you forgive mistakes?
Marriage is not a fantasy. Financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce in the US. Marriage is difficult and it takes a lot of communication and willing to grow closer together. Don’t let something like finances get in the way of a successful marriage.
Are there any suggestions that you’d like to add? How do you and your significant other handle sticky financial situations?