Financial Intimacy: Key Questions You Must Ask Before You Tie the Knot

BY: - 25 Jan '18 | Money

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I spent the majority of my twenties and the early part of my thirties scratching and clawing my way out of student loan debt, establishing my financial priorities, and aligning my spending with my values. So, when I started dating and being receptive to sharing my life with someone, I knew, for sure, that I needed a spouse that held similar financial beliefs to my own. I was not trying to go back into anybody’s debt.

The air on the other side of debt was too fresh and too clean. Too breezy. Six months after meeting my husband, he started hinting about “putting five on it” and long-term commitment. While the feelings were mutual, I did not allow my feelings to override my common sense. Before getting married, my husband and I had several in-depth conversations about all aspects of our future married life: no area was spared examination—especially our respective financial realities.

I can say that I am grateful that we started communicating about money while we dated because even now, as newlyweds, despite our transparency prior to being engaged, I am still learning the nuances and subtleties of my husband’s financial framework and he is learning more about mine.

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I share this story to say that whether you are engaged, newlyweds, or a seasoned married couple, it is better to know about each other financially before marriage, but also to remind you that it is never too late to develop, repair, and expand your financial intimacy. Below are some key questions that you should begin to discuss with your lover. If you need the support of a financial counselor to facilitate the process, invest in one; the health of your marriage is worth it.

When asking the following questions, always be sure that you monitor your body language and your tone of voice, and choose an appropriate time to embark on these conversations. Since financial intimacy necessitates financial vulnerability and disclosure, emotions can begin to run high. It is also helpful that you both keep accurate notes either electronically or by hand so you can refer to them later.

Childhood Money Memories

  • How was money handled throughout your childhood? Who handled money?
  • What role did you play in the family with respect to borrowing and lending?
  • What was your most vivid memory around money when growing up?
  • How was the topic of money discussed?

Financial Systems and Structures

  • Do you want joint or separate accounts or a combination?
  • Will there be a prenup?
  • If there is a disparity in income, how will expenses be shared? Equally? Based on a percentage of income?
  • What systems will we have in place for a layoff?
  • How much is sufficient for an “emergency fund”?
  • How often should we have money meetings?
  • Have you started saving for retirement? How much? What percentage of your
    income goes into your 401(K) or Tax Deferred Annuity?
  • Are you eligible for a pension?

Financial History

  • How will obligations from previous relationships play into our current financial commitments? (spousal support, child support)
  • Have you had to file for bankruptcy? If so, what were the events surrounding that choice?
  • What is your credit score?
  • How much do you earn?
  • How much do you have in assets?
  • How much debt do you have?
  • What was your biggest financial failure?
  • What was your biggest financial success?
  • Do you gamble? Recreationally? Or, have a history of chronic gambling issues?

Financial Identity and Goals

  • If you had to classify yourself, would you identify as a “saver” or a “spender”?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? (jet-setting, minimalist, nomadic, suburban) and how much money will that cost?
  • Do either of us not want to work full-time or at all once married?
  • What does “wealth” mean to you?
  • At what age do you want to retire?
  • Do you want children? If yes, how will we pay for college? Are we considering sending them to private school K-12? How will we pay for that?
  • What role does gender play in dividing financial responsibilities?
  • Do you keep a budget?
  • What are you stress triggers when it comes to money?
  • Are you a spender or a saver?
  • What is your investment style: conservative, moderate, or risk-taking?
  • Do you want to own or rent?
  • Do you have any desire to be self-employed?
  • How will we handle family members that want to live with us or borrow money?
  • What are our beliefs about tithing and/or charitable contributions?
  • Should we invest in a financial counselor or financial adviser?

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This list of questions is by no means exhaustive. Since you know your relationship better than anyone else, it is important that you use your observations and concerns to create questions that will allay your anxiety or misgivings and bring about more financial intimacy and transparency with your spouse.

If after answering these questions, you find that you and your soon-to-be-betrothed or lifelong partner appear financially incompatible, it is important that respect prevail and you open yourself to third-party intervention from your religious institutions, your financial institutions, or from couples whose financial acumen you respect.

BMWK, do you know the answers to these questions from your future spouse?

About the author

Kara Stevens wrote 150 articles on this blog.

Kara is a motivational speaker, life coach, and founder of the personal finance and lifestyle blog The Frugal Feminista .

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7 Proven Strategies For Making Financial Intimacy a Success in Your Marriage

BY: - 9 Feb '18 | Money

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Financial self-awareness, receptiveness, and understanding play an extensive role in setting the stage to make financial intimacy a possibility for your marriage. In addition to the knowing, there must be the “doing.” Financial intimacy is both a goal and a journey. The only way to attend to growing your financial intimacy in your marriage is through action. Here are the systems, structures, and tools needed to make financial intimacy happen.

Create a System to Centralize All of Your Family’s Bills

While this step may seem like a no-brainer, it is crucial. One of the reasons that our bills go unpaid and financial infidelity occurs is simply because we forget about them and begin a cycle of deceit when the consequences start to hit the fan.

To jumpstart this process, elect a shoebox or folder where you will drop your weekly snail mail bills. This will be a temporary system, which should be replaced with something more comprehensive like Excel, Quick Books, or Quicken Books, or any the online tool you choose.

Keep this ad hoc filing system close to where you drop your mail when you get home. If you get your bills online, create a virtual folder called “bills” and within that folder, create sub-folders for categories like insurance, phone, or rent.

Schedule and Honor Money Meetings

We all know about date night, right? We all love it. We look forward to it. But just imagine if your spouse forgets about date night, cancels at the last minute, or comes unprepared, looking a hot mess, ignoring you and scrolling through his/her phone over dinner or while you are at an event. Needless to say, there’s going to be a problem. It is going to be like when Biggie Smalls said: “There’s gonna be a lot of slow singing and bell ringing…”

But seriously, you will not be happy. You may feel angry, hurt, and disappointed, and begin to believe that your partner does not care about you or your feelings. The same thing goes for honoring your commitment to “romancing” your financial intimacy. Schedule your meetings monthly, biweekly or as needed, have agenda items to be discussed, assign responsibilities, and be present and engaged in the discussion, and honor that time for you to work on your shared dreams and goals.

Set Goals, Monitor, and Revise

Together, you both have to get on the same page as to where you want to be with respect to emergency funds, homeownership, creating and updating wills, tithing, salary goals, investing, debt elimination, having and funding children, and lifestyle. Instead of creating broad goals around each area, use SMART goals, which stand for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

If you both have $50,000 worth of student loans combined, it may be unrealistic (and discouraging) to set a goal of eliminating all of this debt in one year especially if you have competing financial priorities like mortgages, rent, car payments, and the like. A SMART goal would read like this, “By December 2018, we will eliminate $2,000 of student loan debt by doubling the minimum payment of our student loans each month.” Between the start and end date of your goals, administer checkpoints to monitor the progress of that goal.

Automate Payments

If you both know that you have difficulty paying your debt on time and consistently, speak with your bank representatives to set up monthly recurring payments to the institutions to which you owe money. This is especially true for bills that you hate to pay. This structure takes some pressure off of you and your spouse because payments are automatically withdrawn from either your checking or savings accounts. With automation, though, it is still important that you are regularly checking and reviewing your accounts to make sure payment amounts and dates are accurate.

Click Here to Download a FREE Copy of the BMWK Generational Wealth Pledge for Black Families!

Celebrate Financial Milestones

With all of the hard work that you are doing to build your financial vision and grow your financial intimacy, you must find ways to play hard as well. Be strategic about what you celebrate, when you celebrate, how you celebrate your financial milestones or successes. Do you want to celebrate when one credit card is fully paid off, when half of the mortgage is paid, when one of you receives a promotion, after a graduation, or once you close on a home? Similarly, “celebration” takes on different forms: a quiet bath together, a movie, a trip to Vegas, or a big sloppy kiss.

Monitor Your Language and Be Generous

No one said that having money conversations would be easy, especially if you married your financial opposite (you are a spender, your spouse is a saver or vice versa). That does not mean, however, that you have a license to throw daggers or intentionally hurt your partner when you are having a financial disagreement.

When you find that you have reached a financial impasse, try to find something positive to say about your spouse’s spending habits or financial decisions. For example, if you think that your wife is financially anal because she has kept every ATM receipt since the summer of ’99, put a spin on it: my wife is detail-oriented and an excellent data manager and that keeps our family finances on track.

On the other hand, if you think that your husband has spent more than he should have on cologne, you can praise him for having good taste, taking care of himself and you can be inspired to pay more attention to putting yourself together.

Click Here to Download a FREE Copy of the BMWK Generational Wealth Pledge for Black Families!

Know When to Ask For Help

If you can’t be productive or find something redeeming to say to your partner in the middle of a disagreement (because sometimes it is a stretch), the best thing is to step away and table the conversation for another time, when you both are cool and levelheaded.

You may need to bring in a qualified third party to support the two of you engage in meaningful dialogue around money. I say qualified meaning bringing your mama, Madea and ‘em, or your boy Shawn from up the block into the mix may make the situation worse. Ask for referrals for Certified Financial Planners, personal finance coaches at work, within your network, and at your places of worship.

BMWK, are you ready to improve the financial intimacy in your marriage?

About the author

Kara Stevens wrote 150 articles on this blog.

Kara is a motivational speaker, life coach, and founder of the personal finance and lifestyle blog The Frugal Feminista .

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