"Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning." --Thomas Edison
So, you've found that special someone to share your life with. Congratulations! Your marriage is certain to succeed, despite the fact that over 50% of marriages fail, right? After all, you love each other and are committed to each other.
But just how much do you know about your future spouse's financial situation? Since almost 90% of divorces have at their roots financial problems, quarrels, and accusations, it's pretty likely that most of these couples headed into marriage without a complete financial picture of their relationship. Here are 10 questions for you to talk over with your intended spouse so that you can both be on the same financial page.
1. Who is going to manage the money?
This is probably the number one question you can ask yourselves. So many people enter marriage thinking that the other person is going to handle everything, only to find out later that neither person is keeping track of anything. Decide who is going to manage the checking/saving/investment accounts, keep track of expenditures, do the investment research, etc. Divide it up if necessary. However, both partners should always be aware of the total financial picture. Regular financial meetings are an essential part of marriage.
2. Are we both going to work?
One of you? Both of you? Full-time? Part-time? These are important questions for laying the bedrock of your budget. Generally, most couples choose for both of them to work, although some couples still choose to have the wife stay at home so they don't become accustomed to having her income, thus allowing her to remain home with their children.
Assuming you will both be working, what will happen if you decide to have children? Who will stay home with them? Will you need to find someone to care for them on a part- or full-time basis? What if one or both of you has children? What arrangements do you need to make?
3. If we both work, how will we handle the household expenses?
Having two incomes can put surprising strain on a relationship. Suddenly you have to worry about who is contributing more to the household expenses and who is not doing his/her "share." Decide how to handle this situation before it becomes a "hot potato." Will you pool both of your incomes and pay household expenses out of that, or will you maintain separate accounts for your separate incomes and hold a joint one for household expenses that you both contribute a percentage of your income to? How much should each of you contribute? Should it be equal amounts, or a certain percentage? Weigh your options carefully and come to a consensus before the wedding!
4. How much personal spending money should each of us have that doesn't have to be accounted for?
Each spouse needs some personal spending money to spend as he/she wishes without having to worry about having to account for it, whether each of you works or not. This is money that could be spent on hobbies, gifts, small purchases, etc. Decide what is fair for each of you (the actual amounts per person may be different).
5. How much could I spend on a purchase without needing consent from you?
Set a limit on how much either of you can spend before consulting with each other. For some people this may be only $10 if money is really tight; for others it might be $1,000. Decide on an amount that will help you to live within you means and not create resentment.
6. What is your attitude toward money?
Our attitudes toward money are often formed when we are just children. We may not even realize their full effect. Talk about how money (or the lack of it) makes you feel. Does it scare you? excite you? make you want to spend it? make you want to horde it? How do you feel about buying on credit? How much debt is essential? How much debt is too much? Consider whether you're a spendthrift marrying a miser.
7. How much debt are you bringing to the marriage?
If you can't be honest about this, there's not much hope for your marriage. Each partner needs to know the debt load the other one is carrying, because once you're married that debt load is now shared. Decide how you will manage it and work toward eliminating it.
8. How do you feel about budgeting?
It is really surprising how many married people get by without a budget. They're usually the ones in the deepest financial trouble. Budgeting is key to making success of your finances. A business would collapse very quickly without a budget to keep it in line. How else would it know how much is coming in, and how much can be spent? Don't just talk about a budget; plan it out and make it work!
9. How often should we review our finances (both short- and long-term)?
Periodic financial meetings are an absolute must. Some couples may need to check up on things every day or two, but most couples need to review their finances at least once a week. That way they know how much money is in the bank and they can discuss their expenditures for the upcoming week. You should probably have a budget meeting at least monthly to plan out bills, etc. Review your investments on an as-needed basis.
10. What are your long-term financial goals?
Where do you see yourselves in 20 years? 30 years? 40 years? What are you doing about retirement planning? Talk about short- and long-term goals and create a plan to achieve them.
Marriage is not only a union of your souls, but a union of your money as well. Take the time to discuss these questions with your loved one. Solve any differences or problems you might have before you get married, and hopefully save yourself an expensive trip to divorce court!
Chemain Evans is a quality control specialist for Simple Joe, Inc., makers of the popular Simple Joe's Expense Tracker PC software. Expense Tracker is a quick and simple way to keep track of your expenses and stay within your budget. Expense Tracker is ideal for tracking personal, business, home, and club expenses. Visit Simple Joe at www.simplejoe.com for more information.© 2007 Simple Joe
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