5 Money Questions to Ask Before You Get Married
Learn five key financial and credit topics you should discuss with your future spouse before you tie the knot.
Photo by Jasmine Carter on Pexels
Finances can be a delicate topic for many couples to discuss. Yet before you take a major relationship step like moving in together or getting married, it's important to talk to your partner about several key financial topics.
A survey revealed that 88% of Americans believed it was important to talk with their partner about how they would manage finances before marriage. Nonetheless, just 51% of survey participants discussed key financial conversations before tying the knot.
If you need to start a financial conversation with your significant other but aren't sure where to begin, the five money questions below can provide you with inspiration. Although it might feel awkward to talk about debt, credit, FICO® Scores, and more, knowing where your partner stands on these key financial topics is critical to make sure you're on the same page and that you both envision future goals that are compatible.
1. What Are the Current Debts You Owe?
There's a good chance that you, your partner, or the pair of you may have incurred previous debts before deciding to get married. Whether you plan to share those financial obligations together or whether each of you intends to manage previous debts on your own, it's important for each partner to know how much debt the other person owes.
The amount of debt your future husband or wife owes could have a meaningful impact on your household finances (and vice versa). Even if your partner plans to pay for those debts on their own, it could affect how much money they have left over to contribute toward the household budget and collective financial goals like retirement savings, vacation savings, etc.
2. How Do You Feel About New Debt?
In addition to the debts your partner already owes, it's also wise to understand their views on taking on additional debt in the future. Does your spouse-to-be believe in pulling out the credit card or applying for new financing on a whim? Is your partner aiming to pay off all debt and opposed to new debt for any reason? How do your views on the subject compare?
Well-managed debt can help you break down the cost of big-ticket items that your family needs, like housing and transportation. You can also use financing to invest in your education, business, and more. However, there's some level of risk involved with all these scenarios as well. There are also undeniable benefits to living below your means and saving and investing more. It's wise to make sure that you and the person with whom you plan to share your future hold similar beliefs on this important subject.
3. What Is Your Comfort Level Regarding Co-Signing?
While you're discussing the subjects of debt and financing, it's a good time to bring up the topic of co-signing. You should find out your partner's comfort level where co-signing is concerned, and whether they might want you to co-sign for them in the future as well.
Being a co-signer for another person's credit obligation (even if that person is a spouse) has the potential to impact your FICO® Scores. As a co-signer, you also promise to accept financial responsibility for a debt in the event the primary borrower fails to repay as promised.
When you co-sign for a spouse or apply for a joint credit obligation (like a mortgage), it may increase your joint borrowing capacity (aka the amount you can borrow). Yet neither you nor your partner should agree to put your name on a credit obligation with another person unless you're comfortable accepting the responsibility and potential risks— including the potential complications of separating joint or co-signed accounts in the event of a breakup.
4. What Is the Condition of Your Credit Reports and FICO® Scores?
The condition of your credit can have a meaningful impact on your financial life. Good credit history and good FICO Scores might make it easier to qualify for financing like loans and credit cards when you need to borrow money. You might also save money (potentially thousands of dollars) on interest rates, car insurance premiums, utility deposits, and more when you work to earn and maintain good credit.
If your future spouse has credit problems, it doesn't have to be a deal breaker. But it's important to know about those challenges upfront. And if you're the one who has less-than-perfect credit, your future husband or wife deserves to know as well.
There are ways to improve your FICO® Scores if your credit isn't where it needs to be at present. But it's important to be forthcoming about those problems so your partner isn't surprised later.
5. How Do You Feel About Combining Finances?
There are many ways to manage your finances together as a couple. Some partners prefer to maintain separate bank accounts and split the responsibility for household bills down the middle. Others might divvy up bills according to how much each spouse earns (e.g., 60/40, 70/30, etc.). And, of course, some couples opt share a joint bank account and pay every bill and debt out of the same pot.
As long as each partner feels comfortable with the arrangement, there's no right or wrong way to combine finances. But you should probably only consider the single, shared bank account approach if there's full transparency and both parties have equal access to and control over the funds. Many experts recommend maintaining some form of financial independence (perhaps individual accounts alongside a shared account) as well.
Other Important Money Questions
In addition to marriage, it can be wise to have key money conversations with your partner at other times as well. Couples who are preparing to move in together may also be in a position where they need to talk about important financial matters.
Here's an example. Prior to moving in with a significant other, you should discuss how you will share household bills. If your partner has a mortgage in their name but you'll be chipping in for the payment and repairs on the home, how do they feel about adding you to the title or refinancing to add you to the mortgage to protect your financial interests? If the home increases in value (due in part to your investments in the), will they share that equity with you?
Bringing up uncomfortable money topics may not be a task that excites you. Yet it's critical to talk about finances and credit before marriage or moving in with a partner.
Most couples will disagree about money at some point in their relationship. That's normal. But when you take the time to discuss your key financial beliefs and goals before your wedding day, you can make sure that you're on the same page with your future spouse and hopefully avoid many future financial conflicts down the road.
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