The M Word: Marriage and Money

Feb 13, 2014 | Investing for couples

Almost Valentine’s Day – love is in the air! But it takes more than romance alone to make a relationship work in the long term. It’s important for couples to talk honestly about their finances once their relationships get serious. Getting to know your partner financially is an absolute must if you’re going to be merging your finances or walking down the aisle.

Talking about the nitty-gritty details of your financial life may not seem as romantic as a first date or falling in love, but becoming more intimate financially can only serve to bring you closer as a couple. And the financial health of your relationship is well worth it! Use these conversation starters to spark discussion.

•    How would you describe your spending vs. saving habits?

Spenders marrying savers: it happens all the time. It doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker. What matters is that you are both on the same page about your long-term goals and what it will ultimately take to get there. Lifestyle differences are fine; there’s a reason they say that opposites attract. You just need to be able to work as a team to stay on track overall.

•    What’s your monthly take-home pay?

Discuss your monthly take-home pay (note: that’s your net pay, not your gross pay before taxes and deductions), and how you typically budget that amount.

•    Do you carry any debt? How much and what kind?

The amount of debt is important, and so is the type. Not all debt is created equal. If you make a monthly payment on a low-interest rate, government-subsidized student loan and are on track to pay it off in a timely manner, that’s one thing. If you’re drowning in credit card debt because you have some issues sticking to your budget, that’s a different story.

•    What is your credit score? What kinds of events in your past have impacted it? 

Your credit scores will affect how you are considered for loans for purchasing a new car or home together or renting an apartment. If one partner has a low credit score as a result of past financial problems, that will affect both of you. For resources and information on raising your credit score, visit the FICO website.

•    What are your most financially healthy habits? In what areas do you struggle a bit more to stay on top of your finances? 

One partner may be excellent at balancing a budget and accounting for all the day-to-day household bills and shopping. One partner may have a better handle on long-term saving and planning. Sharing the financial duties of building a life together doesn’t have to mean a 50-50 split straight down the middle – you can each take the lead on different aspects of your financial life, as long as you communicate openly, check in, and share major decision-making.

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