Tough Financial Questions to Ask Him Before Marrying
You've found a life partner and decided to tie the knot. But before you get too wrapped up in choosing a venue and a dress, there is another important discussion you and your future husband need to have before you walk down the aisle. It's about money.
Here are a few of the tough financial questions you should ask him before you take your vows.Honey, What's Your Credit Score?
While it's not the most romantic of topics, credit scores can have an impact on everything from where you live to the car you drive to future business endeavors. It's better to know your credit standing as a couple before you apply for your first mortgage and discover that his credit will make your mortgage rate skyrocket. Check your credit together at AnnualCreditReport.com, the only website authorized by the Federal government to provide you with a free annual credit report. (Beware of other websites, as they often charge fees or may be scams.)
While looking over your credit reports, check to make sure all accounts and transactions appear to be valid (this is important for everyone to do annually, regardless of your marital status!). Additionally, take note of how many credit cards and debts you both have. While some debt with on-time payments is good for your score, too much debt can hurt it. (Learn more in The 5 Biggest Factors That Affect Your Credit.)
If one of you had a rough patch in the past, there are a few things you can do to help boost your credit to a marriage-worthy status. Set up automated payments so you never have past due amounts, stop opening new lines of credit and start paying off the debts you do carry. And be sure to correct any errors found on your report. Keep in mind that negative credit history is removed from your credit report in seven years, so even if you're not in a position to take out a mortgage now, you can wait a bit, using the time to save up for a down payment and improve your credit scores. (See 10 Ways to Improve Your Credit Report and How can I improve my credit score? for more.)How Should We Manage Household Finances?
While you might have had easy financial arrangements with roommates in the past, finances in a marriage are not just about paying the water bill on time. When you commit to a lifetime together, you are also committing to saving for long-term goals, supporting each other's career changes, planning for retirement together and potentially raising (and paying for) children.
There is no quick answer to how finances should be managed, except that communication, honesty and making a plan together are the keys to success. Some couples manage their finances separately their whole lives. Other couples put everything into joint accounts, while still others keep both separate accounts and shared accounts. There are a number of logistical questions to address as well, such as:
- Do we divide bills evenly or based on earnings?
- How do we want to track our spending?
- What are our budgeting priorities?
- Who is responsible for making sure the bills are paid each month?
- Are we each responsible for our own debts, those we brought into the marriage?
Whatever decisions you make about these issues, be sure you're both on the same page and agree that the financial plan seems fair. And stay flexible. If your first plan doesn't work, or if you want to change things as your lives change, you can always revise your plan.What Are Our Short-term Goals (aka, Setting a Budget Together)?
This conversation will reveal a lot about your spending habits and your attitudes to money. One of you might be a saver, one might be a spender – but this conversation is critical in order to develop a budget together and make sure that your goals are in sync. (For more see Relationship Money Matters.)
While admitting that you usually spend $250 a month on new shoes or discovering that he's OK with $200-a-pop pro-sports tickets might be uncomfortable, it is significantly better to have this discussion earlier rather than later when the bills come rolling in. When you are coming up with a budget, it's important to compromise and to come up with guidelines you can both agree to. Assessing your spending habits together can help you agree on budgets and priorities, and you will enter into your marriage knowing that you're both on the same page rather than bringing guilt, anger and fights into your relationship. (See, also, Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues.)What Are Our Long-term Goals?
This is a financial conversation that is a little more fun – it's your time to dream as a couple! Whether you want to buy a house, travel the world, retire early or both work part-time while you have a family, agreeing on your long-term goals together will help you grow as a couple and will also help your dreams come to fruition.
While you're having this discussion, decide how much you can afford to put aside for your goals each month and automate a transfer into a savings account. As your marriage matures, you will thank yourselves that you took the time early on to set up a financial system that will make your future dreams a reality.The Bottom Line
While financial planning might not be the most exciting part of preparing for marriage, it is a critical foundation for building a life together. If you and your significant other are struggling to get on the same page, sign up for a class or see a financial planner or even a couples counselor together. Attitudes to money often have deep emotional roots. You will pave the way for a happy marriage if you have gotten these difficult financial questions out of the way before tying the knot.