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What to Ask Your Partner About Finances Before Marriage

When you start a relationship with someone, it takes time to get to know them. You have to slowly learn more about them because most people don’t share everything about themselves right away. 

With the growing availability of digital information, many people even check into the background records of people when they start dating them. You might look at someone’s criminal record and check their social media profiles before ever even agreeing to meet them, for example. 

That’s increasingly normal, especially with the popularity of online dating. 

Once you reach a point in a relationship where you’re preparing to get married, you might feel like you know everything about a person, but there could still be some things to discuss. 

Namely, have you talked about your financial past and how you view your future in terms of money, savings, and other personal finance-related factors?

It can feel awkward and unromantic to talk about money before getting married, but it’s a necessity. 

A survey from MONEY magazine found that people who trust their partner financially feel more secure in the relationship and have fewer arguments. If you can learn even before you tie the knot to talk openly about finances and topics related to money, it can strengthen your relationship even if it’s tough to get started. 

Debts and Assets Coming Into the Relationship

One of the fundamental conversations to have as you prepare to marry someone is what types of debts and assets they’re coming into the partnership with. 

You need to talk about the specifics of both of your money situations

You want to talk about how much both of you make as far as your salaries and any passive income. 

Talk about what each of you owes, including student loans, car loans, and credit cards. According to a study by Ramsey Solutions from 2017, 86% of couples who got married in the past five years started with debt. An estimated 48% of couples who say they regularly argue about money fight about debt. 

Ask your partner what their current financial obligations are. You’ll both have bills and things you’re responsible for. 

Another important topic is to talk about how much you each have in investments and savings and what your regular contributions are to these types of accounts. 

It’s impossible to create a budget or plan for your future if you don’t have an understanding of each of your liabilities and assets. 

Credit Scores

Once you understand the general financial picture of your partner, it’s time to talk about credit scores. 

Credit scores are what will allow you or prevent you from doing everything from renting or buying a home to buying a car. If one of you has a low score, you can come up with a plan to work on it together. 

You don’t want to wait until it’s relevant to find out your partner has a bad credit score. Find out proactively and take the necessary steps to get it where it needs to be before you do something like applying for a mortgage. 

Money Philosophy

The above topics of conversation are more about the logistics of finances. From there, you want to learn each other’s philosophies about money, including spending and saving. For example, some couples share the fact that they like to splurge and spend money. 

If one of you is much more frugal than the other, or your primary goal is saving versus spending money, you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to manage the differences. 

You may already have a general idea of how your partner views money based on things like the restaurants you go to and the gifts you give one another. 

It’s also smart to talk about how each of your families handled money. Many of us don’t realize that we have deeply-held feelings and emotional attachments to different ways of viewing and handling money. 

You can ask each other your money fears too. As an example, some people might feel that because they grew up in a poorer home, their biggest fear is not having a lot of money in savings. 

Will You Combine Finances?

There tends to be the idea that getting married means you inherently and instantly combine your finances with your new spouse. This isn’t necessarily the case. 

When you combine finances, you might have shared accounts, and then you’re talking with one another about many big financial decisions. The benefit is that there’s transparency, and you can see the financial decisions you’re each making jointly. 

However, some couples find this doesn’t work for them. You may want to spend money without feeling like someone else is judging how you’re doing it. 

If you both have an income, you can keep your finances separate. You can also have both a separate and a joint account. 

Set Financial Goals

When you’re sharing a life together, that means you’re also going to be sharing similar goals. 

You want to think about not just things like buying a house that directly relates to money but also things like starting a family or what your individual career goals might be that could impact your finances. 

General Tips for Talking About Money

While the above lies out the specific things you need to talk about before you get married, the following are general tips to make the conversations go more smoothly:

  • You don’t have to rush the conversations about money. Everything above doesn’t have to happen all at once. 
  • You can learn a lot about how your partner views money by observing them. 
  • Don’t get judgmental when talking about money. You can be curious without offering judgment. 

If you find that you and your soon-to-be spouse are pretty far apart on certain issues, or maybe you both struggle with money, you might want to work with a professional. Someone like a financial planner can be like a financial therapist and a neutral third party. 

They’ll listen objectively to both of your situations and perspectives and work with you to create long-term plans. 

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