Q: I just got engaged and while I’m really excited about it, my fiancé and I haven’t really discussed money issues. For the most part, we’ve kept our finances to ourselves. At first, I thought we would talk about it when the time was right, but now that we’re engaged, I’m not sure how to approach it. Shouldn’t I know something about how he handles his money before we say, “I do?” What exactly do I need to find out?
A: You’re doing the right thing by getting a handle on this now and not waiting until you ready to walk down the isle. It’s an absolute necessity to discuss financial matters in detail before marriage. Your discussion will hopefully be an honest, open exchange of information and ideas.
As a starting point, look at the questions below and answer them by yourself. Focus in particular on your answers to the questions and think about how the two of you will handle your finances after marriage. Ensure you’re prepared to speak up for yourself and state exactly what you want to do. Next, use the questions as conversation starters about money:
- What are your thoughts or feelings about money and financial issues in general?
- How do you see us managing our finances once we’re married? What about paying bills, saving and investing?
- Are there accounts we should combine and which accounts should be kept individually?
- Do you consider yourself a saver or a spender when it comes to money?
- What are your thoughts about debt and credit cards? How much debt (unpaid bills) do you have right now?
- How much debt do you have right now?
- How many credit cards do you have?
- Have you ever filed for bankruptcy or had financial struggles? If so, what happened and how do you feel about it?
- How can we work together on financial issues?
There are many more details you can go into over time (and I recommend that you work with a fee-only financial planner or counselor to make sure you are not overlooking important details), but for now, the above questions are a good starting place.
Once you have an open and honest discussion about finances with your fiancé, you’ll be better informed and ready to work out how to manage your money together using strategies that will work for both of you.