MONEY, LOVE AND HAPPINESS:
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK BEFORE THE WEDDING
Money is a wonderful thing, we all like to have plenty of it. Unfortunately, not all of us like to talk about it, especially with our significant other. Being in love is a great feeling and the prospect of spending the rest of your life with that special person is a pretty thrilling experience for most. But when the vows have been said and the honeymoon is over, reality dawns and newlyweds go back to living their regular lives. Financially, your return to a regular life could be a harsh and saddening reality check or a happy and welcome break from all the fuss and running around – the choice is yours. It is money that’ll be paying the bills and getting you that house you’ve been dreaming about so talk about it now so you don’t fight about it later. If you’re feeling shy or afraid to broach this important topic during courtship remember that finding tactful and easy ways of talking about money actually shows your maturity and forward thinking. Below is a list of questions that you could ask before the wedding.
1. Do you consider your work as a career or just a job?Maybe you do not like what he/she does and you’re secretly hoping they’ll get tired of it or quit in time. If you are considering spending the rest of your life with this person, you need to know for sure, so ask them. Do you think they could be earning more? Tactfully encourage them to seek out better job opportunities.
Also, getting an answer to this question would give you an indication of stability during the marriage. If your partner plans on switching jobs or careers at some point in time, it could affect income levels in the home. The earlier you know about it, the better you can plan for it, especially if the change is going to be within a year of getting married.
2. Where would you like to stay if you have the option of choosing and what type of housing would you prefer?The area and type of residence is very important in every relationship, especially if both partners come from different backgrounds as you may have different definitions for “what’s manageable” in the first few years of marriage. It’s also important to discuss timelines on when you would like to build or buy your own house as a couple. This discussion will prevent fights and arguments later on.
3. What is your annual income?Knowing your spouse’s income makes it easier for you to live within your means and also to plan towards big purchases like a house or a car. If you are perceived to be the primary breadwinner, it would be best to discuss your income openly so your partner does not overspend or make financial plans that are not possible at the moment.
4. How will we handle the finances of the home?Strange as this may sound, it’s not a question to be avoided. Culturally, it is still widely believed that the man must be the primary provider for the home. However, you should not take this for granted. Women are earning more than they used to ten years ago and are becoming strong pillars of support in many homes. Hence, it is most ideal for partners to decide who will be responsible for what. Think of it as chores. Just as someone’s got to be responsible for washing the car and another for the laundry, so could someone be responsible for the electric bill and another for tuition fees. In the spirit of love and fairness, it would be best to review your financial chores when circumstances change eg. When one spouse loses his/her source of income or when one spouse’s income increases substantially, relative to the other spouse’s income.
5. Should we have a joint account?Having a joint account means the couple has one account which they both have access to. Marriage is a partnership but before you decide to put all your cash in a joint account with your spouse, take some time to think through the pros and cons. One advantage of having a joint account is that it’s easier to make payments even if one spouse is not reachable. The joint account makes estate planning a bit easier if you are planning on leaving all your cash to your spouse because the money in the account will automatically go to your spouse in the event of your death or vice versa. It also bolsters feelings of trust and transparency in the relationship. However, it could also lead to problems if one spouse makes large purchases without informing the other. In the event of marital problems, one spouse can take all the money, including funds deposited by the other spouse. Keeping a joint account also means you would not be able to build up credit individually. If you do decide to open a joint account with your partner, a great option would be to keep separate personal accounts as well and to decide on the percentage of income each spouse should contribute to the joint account each month (eg. Each spouse contributes 30% of their income). That way, you can still have an account as a couple to cater for family expenses while keeping a personal account for things you want to spend your money on. You also need to be clear on the purpose of the joint account eg. Utility bills, health care, etc.
6. Who will be in charge of investing in our future?It is important to have an investment plan based on your financial goals as a couple. You should have different investments for different goals (i.e. short, medium and long term goals). Putting money into your savings or joint account is not enough to secure your financial future and that of your children, if you are planning on having any. So it is important that you put together an investment plan to guide you in taking financial decisions. Whiles you should both be involved and well-informed on the status of your various investments, it is also important to designate which spouse would be responsible for planning meetings to talk about your investment plan.
7. Do you have any significant debt to pay?This is very important in every relationship. It helps the partners plan their lives better. Starting life with no significant debt is surely better and different from starting life with debt. It also makes your know your partner better. The type of debt the person owes tells a lot about the person. Whether he is a spendthrift or knows how to manage the little he/she has.
8. How much do you have in investments?This is also a great way to know how your partner manages their finances. It’ll also give you an indication of the combined incomes or nest egg you are starting your lives together with and this makes it easier to plan for big purchases or long term investments.
9. How will we handle religious obligations and charitable giving?It may not seem like it but this is actually a very important question, especially if you hold different religious beliefs or do not belong to the same denomination. What one spouse considers “spiritual investment”, another may consider waste and this situation could lead to frustration and fights when you are married. Have a discussion about this and depending on your beliefs, decide on the percentage of your income that will go to religious/ charitable giving.
10. Which employee benefits are you entitled to at work?Finding out which benefits spouses are eligible for at work is a great way to cut down on expenses so please check with your HR and ask your partner to do so too.
11. What are our goals?Both of you are probably going into the marriage with various personal financial goals that you may have to compromise on. To avoid feelings of frustration later on in life, it would be best to discuss your goals before getting married. Talk to your partner about the ideal life you want for yourself financially and encourage him/her to tell you about their ideal life too. This helps you to know if your long term goals are in sync and makes it easier to work toward your common goals as a couple and to compromise for each other.
No matter what arrangements you reach regarding your finances, you need to bear in mind that circumstances change with time and you will have to make changes to prior arrangements accordingly. The key is to always be transparent with each other, communicate and to accept that compromise is part of every marriage. Wondering how you can prepare adequately for the wedding expenses?