Financial Planning – Questions to Ask Before “I Do”

Posted on: May 12th, 2010 by

Financial Planning - Getting Married - Rockville, MDWhen you think about it, couples don’t fight over love; they fight over money.  They fight because one person didn’t balance the checkbook or made a dumb investment without consulting the other.  They fight because one partner exerts dictatorial control over the money, or because one has secretly amassed thousands of dollars in debt on a credit card.  Whether the issues are big or small, money will prove a powerful force impacting your marriage.  What couples don’t always understand is that money is rarely the real culprit.  It’s the lack of communication, often stemming from a lack of knowledge about each other’s personal financial status and beliefs.  With that in mind, you need to ask the important questions before tying the knot.  A major question to ask is what your partner’s assets and liabilities are.  This question is paramount because assets and liabilities are the basic building blocks of the financial life you’ll live together.  Assets will help you strive for the life you want.  The liabilities will hold you back.  Your goal should be to pinpoint where you are financially as a couple so that you can map out where you want to go together.

Another essential topic to discuss is how you are going to divide the financial responsibilities.  Maybe one of you takes charge of investing and the other balances the checkbook.  Your wisest move is to play to each other’s strengths.  If you’re good at challenging bureaucracy, maybe you agree to handle the insurance companies and the medical bills.  The point is that you both have an obligation to the family’s financial well-being, and both of you need to be aware of the household’s financial situation.

Finally, you need to discuss whether or not you want to combine your accounts or operate individually.  This is a divisive issue.  Many financial pros argue that operating from individual accounts helps maintain marital peace.  Since neither partner knows what happens in the other’s account, they believe that less bickering will occur.  I say, maybe.  You could also make the argument that individual accounts mask the family’s true financial position, which can draw away from the main purpose of marriage: operating as a team.   If neither of you know how much money is really flowing through the individual accounts, nor how much is being saved and invested, then it’s impossible to plan a future together.  That’s not to say that individual accounts don’t work; they just require a lot of openness.  Ultimately, this, along with the other questions, boil down to one thing: communication.



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