If you are engaged to be married and have not yet had a conversation about money and your soon-to-be-shared finances, you may be looking for some questions to ask before marriage. Since money is one of the leading causes of divorce, it makes sense to see where each person in the relationship stands financially, and where they see the family headed into the future.
While some couples know everything about each others’ finances, many out there are hesitant to come clean with their details. Hidden debts. Defaults. Chargeoffs. Settlements. Bankruptcy. Even if there are no blemishes, people are naturally inclined to be private about their finances.
Just as I believe you shouldn’t marry someone for their money, you also shouldn’t avoid marrying someone for their debt. Love is the most important thing, and with a committed plan, couples can clean up any money problems that are brought into the relationship (except maybe tax evasion, fraud or money laundering).
Here are some steps couples can take and questions to ask before marriage to know the things that need to be shared to have a happy and prosperous relationship. Trust me, we made the mistake of proceeding with a “my money and my bills” approach instead of “our money and our bills,” and it made our debt payoff take even longer.
5 Questions to Ask Before Marriage
1. What is Your Income?
Believe it nor not, some couples don’t know what each other makes. Sure, they probably have an idea, but if they don’t live together and maintain separate financial lives, they may not know. Now that you are engaged, it's time to tell each other your yearly income.
2. What Debt do You Owe?
It is important to know how much debt each partner has, because after marriage, it will be a shared debt. That means once you get married you can get right to work tackling your debts and paying them off in the order you deem best. I recommend paying them off smallest to largest, snowball style, but you may prefer to attack based on interest rate. Use a snowball calculator to figure this out. It’s your choice.
3. What is Your Net Worth?
This is just a math problem: your total liabilities subtracted from your total assets. For many young people, their net worth is zero or negative. Don’t be worried, this is normal for people carrying student loan and credit card debt, fresh out of college.
4. What Savings Do You Have?
This question is designed to ferret out any hidden savings accounts, certificates of deposit, stashes of gold and silver, stocks, bond, etc. It is important to be open and honest about all financial resources – every option should be on the table. Be prepared for neither partner to have any savings – this is normal.
5. What Are Your Financial Goals?
It would be foolish to get married and find out your partner does not share your long term financial goals. If you haven’t given them much thought, at least talk about them in broad terms so that it is out there as an important topic. Some people were taught to invest before paying off debt, and others were taught the opposite. Some were taught nothing and have no goals. This is fine, too, and presents a good opportunity to start making some.
The Right Questions to Ask Before Marriage
The right questions to ask before marriage when it comes to money can prevent you from wasting years with unaligned financial paths. What those questions are depend on how open you've been with your finances.
Like I said before, debt alone should not be a reason to avoid marriage if love is there. Also, if neither partner has money problems and both prefer to maintain separate finances, there is no problem with that.
But if you both share a mutual desire to take control of your money and make it work for you, these questions can lead you to answers. By getting on the same page and putting your efforts towards one goal, two people working hard and together cannot fail.