Remember that teasing tune we all used to sing on the playground: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes crippling debt!”
Is that not how it goes? Maybe I learned the alternate version of the song. I think what was missing between the marriage and the crippling debt parts was a financial conversation between you and your future spouse.
So, where do you start? What questions should you ask/discuss?
- Financial goals and shared goals – Before you say, “I do!” you’ll probably want to know what financial goals your future spouse has or wants to accomplish. One partner may want to retire early, while the other is simply worried about paying off debts. You two might want to get on the same page with your goals if they don’t exactly coincide with one another. Consulting a financial advisor to help can always be pretty beneficial, or so I’m told.
- All debts, assets and financial obligations – I’m no marriage counselor, but one of the most important things in a marriage is communication, so keeping any or all financial obligations from your partner is extremely counterproductive. In order to tackle any debt you may have, you’ll likely need the help of your future spouse. Be sure to disclose assets and obligations so you both have a clear picture of the financial condition before entering into holy matrimony.
- Merging finances/financial accounts – Some couples opt to marge finances and officially take over the financial obligations of his/her spouse. On the other hand, some married couples decide that keeping separate accounts is more beneficial for a healthy financial life. Whether you decide to merge finances or keep them separate is completely up to you, but be sure you and your future spouse are on the same page either way.
- Budgeting/saving habits – Not everyone budgets, and not everyone is a saver. That’s why you should have a conversation about your financial habits. If you happen to marry someone who is a savvy saver or a budgeting master, you don’t want to derail his/her progress because you aren’t open about your own spending/saving habits.
Hopefully, your debt isn’t crippling, but only a slight annoyance. Regardless, having a serious discussion about the debts you’re carrying and your finances in general is extremely important. You don’t want to end up with any financial surprises while you’re planning your happily ever after.