5 money questions you need to ask your partner before you get married
Getting married is romantic. Thinking about how you'll combine your finances is not.
But financial harmony is key to compatibility. A 2008 study found that money was a primary cause of conflict in around 39% of relationships, with communication coming in a close second.
It's no coincidence that money and communication are the top 2 problems. That's because being in financial harmony involves talking about how you spend money — and that can be awkward.
Here are five questions to ask each other before tying the knot.
Are you a spender or a saver?
Do you love to hit the mall while your partner gets a thrill from watching pennies pile up in the bank account? If so, you're like a lot of couples.
"Tightwads, who generally spend less than they would ideally like to spend, and spendthrifts, who generally spend more than they would ideally like to spend, tend to marry each other," University of Michigan marketing professor Scott Rick.
And that can be problem. "'This complementary attraction ultimately appears to hurt marriages, as it is associated with greater conflicts over money and diminished marital well-being," Rick says.
You can make it work if you're both willing to compromise. One option: decide together on a set amount to save each month and make sure both partners have their own cash to spend with no questions asked.
You don't have to fully combine finances if you have different spending philosophies but you do have to be realistic about the fact your partner's saving and spending choices are going to impact your union.
How's your credit?
Want to buy a house? You're going to get a much higher interest rate if your spouse has a bad credit score.
Sure, you can put just one spouse on the mortgage if only one of you has good credit ... but this means only that spouse's income will count when determining how much you could borrow.
Even if you don't plan any big joint purchases as a married couple, your spouse's credit still affects you. That's because the higher interest rate they will pay when they take out a loan for a car, for example, will affect your overall household budget. Check out this tool to see just how much.
You may be willing to live with a spouse with bad credit, especially if it's the result of high medical bills or something else unavoidable. But since your spouse's credit has a big impact on your financial life together, you need to know exactly what you're dealing with before saying "I do".
Do you have a budget or want one?
Different attitudes about budgeting could be something you can compromise on — or it could put you on the path to divorce.
Chances are, you don't have a detailed budget, since only one in three Americans do, according to Gallup. But even if both you and your spouse have a budget, you need to understand each other's spending habits. You may be totally fine budgeting $200 a month for takeout, for example, while your partner treats it as a rare indulgence.
Even if neither of you wants a budget, you're not off the hook. Talk about how you'll make decisions on spending and saving without a budget to guide you.
What kinds of financial goals do you have?
Sharing your financial goals can shed light on your life goals.
If one of you wants to retire at 40 and live frugally and the other wants to work until you're 80 so you can afford a giant mansion and a lavish lifestyle, this is going to be a problem.
Discuss what you hope to accomplish with your money and make sure you're on the same page. Having joint money goals can actually help you grow closer.
Done anything for retirement yet?
The younger you are when you start saving, the more likely it is that you'll be able to build up a big nest egg for retirement. If you have a lot saved but your partner hasn't started yet, find out if they're willing to commit to a plan.
You don't want to be the only one putting aside cash for retirement. It could also make you resentful if you're the only one thinking about the future that affects you both.
It should be fun to plan your life together and think about being that old couple walking hand-in-hand in your 80s. See if you can work together to achieve your shared dreams.
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