Ten topics to cover before you commit

Would you believe that more than 2 million marriages take place in the U.S. every year—that equals close to 6,000 a day!  Unfortunately, many marrying couples spend more time talking about their wedding than about their financial future.

We all know that communication is crucial in developing a healthy financial relationship, yet it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. Since taking the time to talk is a great investment in your financial future, consider starting with the following 10 topics.

  1. How did your family handle money when growing up? Your financial style is based on years of experience. Think back to how your family handled money as you were growing up.

    Start by asking this question: Is the way your family handled money an inspiration or did they make mistakes you’d like to avoid repeating?

  2. Are you a spender or a saver? Discovering each of your financial styles allows you to try to cultivate the positive aspects of each.

    Start by asking this question: If you suddenly received an unexpected $1,000, what would you do with it? 

  3. Which do you value more: things you can keep or experiences to remember? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but thinking about it can help you set priorities and better understand your partner’s preferences.

    Start by asking the question: If you had to choose between a new car and a month-long exotic vacation, which would you choose and why? 

  4. What is your definition of a “financial crisis”? Different people have different thresholds for financial stress. For some people, getting calls from creditors is a minor irritation. For others, there mere thought of a credit card balance is enough to send them over the financial edge.

    Start by asking the question: How would you feel if you received a collection notice in the mail for a bill you overlooked paying? 

  5. Are you in debt? If you’ve brought debt into a relationship, it’s time to come clean. Far too many people try and fail to hide debt from their partners. The key to a successful financial life is not just communication, it is honest communication.

    Start by asking this question: Is there anything about your current financial situation that makes you uncomfortable? 

  6. How’s your credit report? While your partner’s previous credit challenges won’t show up on your report, his or her bad credit could cause you to face problems when applying for joint credit. Being in the know right now about potential complications the two of you may face is better than finding out later, say, when you are denied a loan.

    Start by asking this question: Is there anything on your credit report that would prevent you from purchasing a car or home? 

  7. Should we have one account or two? Different couples handle money differently. Having separate accounts can be a practical way to share financial responsibilities while maintaining individual freedoms. However, many couples who agree on spending habits find that a joint account works well for them.

    Start by asking this question: Can you commit to communicating well enough and frequently enough to make individual accounts work for your joint situation? 

  8. What do you consider a “big” financial decision? One key to a happy financial life is to vow to make all big financial decisions together. While that sounds good in theory, it is probably worth exploring in more detail. After all, one of you might consider a television a huge purchase, while the other might be thinking more along the lines of a car.

    Start by asking this question: What dollar amount do you feel constitutes a “large” expenditure? 

  9. How interested are you in money management? If numbers aren’t your thing, it’s probably worth mentioning now. Don’t commit to something you can’t follow through with. If you aren’t going to pay the bills on time and invest wisely, ask your partner to take the lead role.

    Start by asking this question: How long has it been since you’ve reviewed your retirement strategy? 

  10. What are your financial goals? Everyone, whether they’re in a relationship or single, should take the time to set financial goals. Setting agreed-upon short-, mid-, and long-term goals with your partner can help you both make smart financial decisions. Just be sure your goals are both realistic and flexible.

    Start by asking the question: Where do you want to be two, ten, and twenty years from now?
For more on love and money, download our free Guide to the Coupling Finance and Romance.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.