Money issues can drive a searing hot wedge between any couple, disrupting marital harmony in the process. That’s why it’s crucial for couples to protect their marriage by having honest discussions concerning finances before problems arise. Yet, according to a Country Financial Security Index survey, 42% of couples did not even bother to discuss how they would handle their finances before their marriage.
So what questions should you ask your partner to help solidify a strong financial foundation together? Consider these:
What motivates your money behavior?
You’re a saver, but your significant other is a spender. Conflicts are bound to happen. So what is a couple to do? Sometimes it’s as simple as discussing what money means to each partner. Our spending rarely occurs in a vacuum but is the result of numerous money lessons we incorporated growing up.
In particular, how our parents dealt with money often patterns our behavior as adults. In the process, money becomes a proxy for comfort, security, prestige, or power. A tightwad, for instance, may not mean to be a scrooge but hoards money for fear of going broke like her parents.
Once these underlying money beliefs are honestly examined, both partners can begin to address their financial behaviors in a new light.
What are your financial goals?
Goals drive success, but too often couples are not even on the same page when it comes to what they want for their financial future. One partner may have desires to retire early while the other may be dreaming of purchasing a vacation home in the future. When goals diverge the result can be disastrous.
That’s why it’s so important to sit down as a couple and map your financial future. Yes, it may take some compromise, but when a couple is in sync about what they want financially they make better decisions, allowing them to reach their goals more efficiently.
What financial decisions need to be shared?
Marriage is built around communication. This is true when it comes to the topic of finances as well. But, according to the Country Financial Security Index survey, 52 percent of Americans do not feel the need to ask their spouse for permission to make a purchase outside of their usual household expenses. While it may not be necessary to have a discussion on how to spend every last dime, it is good to decide ahead of time when a discussion will be warranted.
You may, for instance, make it a rule to consult each other any time you make a financial investment or whenever you receive a large tax refund or other financial windfall. Some couples make it a point to consult their partners whenever they’re considering spending more than a certain amount of money, say more than $200 for instance.
How do you want to give?
What will you do when one spouse’s sibling, parent, or relative is in financial need? Will you lend them the money or give them what you have no strings attached? Who will help take care of or pay for the care of aging parents?
It’s not just loved ones you should consider. How would you like to donate to your church or favorite charity? Do you desire to tithe, and if so will you tithe 10% of your net or 10% of your gross income? These are the types of questions you and your partner should discuss ahead of time.
Should you have joint or separate accounts?
A marriage is the merging of two lives into one and a joint bank account can represent the ultimate sign of financial intimacy. But, for many couples a joint account just will not do.
It is quite common for couples to create three accounts – his, hers, and ours. To help create financial intimacy while at the same time providing each partner with some degree of independence, consider creating a main account where each partner’s paycheck is deposited. This is the account where all the bills, investments, and debts are paid from. You can also have a monthly “allowance” automatically transferred from the main account to the account of each spouse. This should be “fun” money that each individual can spend on their own, no strings attached.
While this is just one variation of how couples can set up their financial accounts, they key is to discuss it ahead of time and put a system in place that works well for both partners.
BMWK, what are the most important money questions that you think couples should discuss?