After saying “Yes” to one really big question, you can expect plenty of smaller questions as a newly engaged couple as you plan your wedding and your lives together. From family and friends wanting to hear all about the proposal to vendors needing to know how many tiers your cake will have, you’ll be answering lots of questions before walking down the aisle. One question you should be asking yourself and your partner is, “How are we going to manage our finances once we’re married?”
To help you and your partner clearly map out your finances, here are 7 additional questions to ask before you get married.
1. How will we manage our accounts?
For years, it was assumed that after marriage, a couple would merge their finances into joint accounts, with the responsibility of managing them usually falling onto one person. Today, couples generally follow one of these three common financial structures when managing household finances. They either merge everything, maintain their individual checking accounts but share a savings account, or they keep all of their money separate. No single approach is better than any other, as long as you and your partner are on the same page. Having this conversation long before exchanging “I Do’s” will help get your marriage off to a strong start.
2. How will we pay bills?
If you and your partner decide to keep separate checking accounts, it’s important to figure out how you will pay the bills and other regular expenses. A few questions to ask before you get married include whether the cable and electric bills will come out of your account and if the rent out of your partner’s, and so on. If you are sharing a joint checking or savings account specifically for monthly bills, which expenses qualify? Would you use it to pay for groceries as well as your mortgage? Taking the time now to decide how you will be managing household finances and expenses can save you a lot of stress in the future.
3. What should our budget be?
No matter how big or small your wedding, one of the first decisions you and your partner probably made after getting engaged was how much money you are willing to spend on your nuptials. Now that you’ve had some practice in setting a budget, it’s time to apply the same decision making to your future lives together. Thinking about what kinds of expenses you are responsible for, you can start to map out how much money you’ll have left over each month.
With that dollar amount in mind, start dividing it up into categories like groceries, entertainment, dining out and savings. Having a breakdown of your expected spending is an important step in budgeting for newly married couples and can help predict when you’ll have a little extra to save and which months you’ll need to pull back on non-essential spending.
4. What spending amount warrants a heads up?
Even if you and your partner keep separate finances, you should still have an agreed upon budget (see Tip #3), and that means that if a big payment or purchase is on the horizon, you might want to let him or her know. You probably won’t need to alert your partner to a dollar spent here and five dollars spent there, but one of the questions to ask before you get married is what amount warrants a heads up. For example, if you and your partner have set that amount to $100 and you see two concert tickets on sale for $75 each, you might want to have a conversation before purchasing them. This can help you keep your savings on track as well as avoid any arguments about money.
5. How will we manage our debt?
It’s a common myth that marrying someone with student loan debt makes repayment the responsibility of both partners after marriage. So while you can breathe a little easier if you are debt free but your partner is one of the 44.2 million Americans with student loan debt, you will still want to include any debt repayments in your monthly budget. Wondering how debt and repayment will affect you and your partner? This article from NerdWallet can help break it down.
6. When do we hope to retire?
No matter how close or far you and your partner are from retirement age, having a rough idea of when you both hope to retire can help inform your spending and saving habits. If you see children in your future, one of the questions to ask before you get married should be whether you or your partner plan to stay at home with them. Even if that decision is a long way off, talking about it now can help you set a savings goal that will make one working parent possible, and retirement a reality.
7. What are we saving for?
From buying your dream home to taking a vacation to a yet-to-be-decided destination, talking about what you and your partner are saving for is a special part of your relationship. Whether your savings goals are to fill immediate needs or to pave the way for the future, finding out what motivates you and your partner to save is one of the most important questions to ask before you get married. It’s never too early or too late to start a savings plan for you and your partner.
From booking your first wedding vendor to your making your first big purchase as a married couple, open communication about money will help you form a solid foundation upon which you will build your lives together. To learn more about spending and saving through all your life stages, visit our FutureTrack website, then come in and meet with us to set your savings plan on its own happily ever after.