Most people will spend considerably more time planning their wedding than talking to their future spouse about money.

When I got married, I was no different. My partner was fairly reckless with credit card spending, while I had huge anxiety around finances in general.

As a result, we never had honest discussions about money. I naively thought that we would figure things out eventually and that our love would overcome any obstacles.

I was wrong. The marriage didn’t last.

Talking about money isn’t easy, or romantic or sexy, but it will save your sanity in the long run (and maybe even your marriage). Here are some key questions to ask each other before you say, “I do”.

What's your attitude toward money?

Our attitudes around money are largely shaped by our upbringing. I was raised by a single mother who taught me to be frugal, and as a result, I developed guilt around any spending that I saw as “frivolous”.

My ex-husband also came from a background where money was tight, but his family’s attitude to spending was more “make hay while the sun shines”. Our contrasting attitudes towards money definitely played a part in our conflicts.

Take Sorted’s money personality quiz to each get a feel for your personal approach to finances. You may well find common ground. Or at least a starting point for conversations.

But if there are differences in your attitudes, don’t despair. An honest appraisal of your differences around money means that you are forewarned of potential areas of difficulty. And remember, differences don’t have to be weaknesses – they can complement each other, providing strength and balance.   

How much debt do you have, and what’s your credit score?

When you marry someone, you are effectively marrying their finances. If they happen to have huge debts and a poor credit rating, that might not be a deal breaker, but it’s still something you need to know about.

While getting married doesn’t make you responsible for your spouse’s personal debts, their financial status can still affect your marital money situation. For example, if one of you has a poor credit score, you’ll be hit with higher interest rates if you take out a joint loan or mortgage. Similarly, the burden of high debt repayments could delay big life decisions like buying property or having kids.

Use Sorted’s debt calculator to determine the amount of debt each of you has. Be frank and open with each other about any financial skeletons in the closet, so that you both know what you’re getting into before you fully commit.

How do you feel about merging finances?

To merge or not to merge? It’s a highly personal decision, with positives and negatives on both sides. If your income levels and/or attitudes around money are very different, retaining individual finances might be your best bet.

But if you’re both on the same page about money, pooling resources could be the more streamlined and beneficial option.   

What goals do you have for the short, medium and long term?

Establish each partner’s financial goals in the short, medium and long terms, and consider how compatible they are. What are your priorities?

If one of you wants to travel and the other wants to buy a house, some serious negotiation may be on the cards. Consider cutting back or selling items to raise extra funds.

Sorted’s goal planner can help. Compromise is key to any happy partnership, and this is a great opportunity to practise that essential skill.

Where will we live? And how will we come up with a down payment?

If you’re getting married, you’re probably living together or planning on it. Make sure you’re on the same page about where you’re going to settle, and how you’re going to pay for it.

If there is a big disparity between your earnings, consider contributing to housing costs on a proportional basis.

“The handling of finances is one of the major emotional battlegrounds of any marriage,” writes David Augsburger in The Meaning of Money in Marriage. “Lack of finances is seldom the issue. The root problem seems to be an unrealistic and immature view of money.”

 

Maia Fletcher is a Gisborne-based freelance writer who enjoys travelling and crafting articles for numerous blogs and sites, including Working in NZ. You can find more of her published works on Tumblr.

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