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Ten Questions to Ask Before Getting Hitched

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Perhaps she calls you “her sweeitie” and you call her “lover.” Maybe you don’t have cutesy names for each other, but if you’re planning to get married, hopefully you know each other very well.

This encompasses a little more than favorite restaurants, medical allergies, and middle names. There should be some serious discussions about life goals, passions, and philosophies. And then there’s money. Here are ten questions, thanks to Erin Burt of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, to initiate more than a five-minute conversation. She provided the questions and I’m providing my interpretation.

Each one of these questions deserves a blog post for itself.

1. Where would you like to be in five or ten years? This is more than just physical location, but where you want to live is important, too. As far as location goes, there should probably be some agreement if there are specific places to live — or flexibility. Aside from this, what are your goals? If one wants to go back to school or to take a risk and open a business, is the other willing to support that?

2. What are our assets and liabilities? You may not know about your friends’ financial positions unless they happen to post their details online. In most cases, you’ll probably need to sit down and talk about what you owe. The article suggests prenuptial agreements, but that’s a personal decision. It could be a good idea in cases where there is a wide disparity between incomes, net worth, or future earning possibilities.

3. Should we keep our finances separate or combine them? I think there is more power when two financial forces join as one — the whole is greater than the sum of its parts — but that’s just my opinion. There are valid reasons for keeping finances separate.

If you’re struggling to come up with a solution in this area, you may consider what I would do: combine almost everything, in proportion to each person’s means to contribute, for all living expenses but keep some “mad money” so you can surprise the other with gifts.

You can do this without hiding money from your partner.

4. What about our investments? Once again, the power of combined accounts works in the favor of the couple as a whole in terms of growth. Fewer separate accounts and higher balances mean fewer fees. It also forces you to discuss risk tolerance and investment goals.

5. How will we handle daily spending decisions? To budget or not to budget, that is the question. The author is strongly pro-budget. Budgets can be helpful, especially for those for whom spending may be an issue. Personally, I don’t keep a line-by-line budget for myself. This type of organization is stifling to me, but I’d be willing to give it a try in a relationship as long as it is flexible and not strict.

6. Who will be responsible for paying the bills and preparing the taxes? I think it’s best to have just one person in charge, just to keep things simple. This will help to avoid paying a bill twice. But who should do it? Perhaps the person who is more efficient with keeping track of statements and records. You could also “outsource” bill organization to a company like Paytrust and avoid all the paperwork.

7. What is your tolerance for financial risk? The article provides a link to a risk tolerance questionnaire and suggests that if the two in the couple fall on the opposite end of the spectrum, compromising may be the only option.

8. What are our insurance options? For a marriage in which both spouses work, chances are one has health benefits costing less or offering better options than the other. So it is worth it to compare plans and decide whether one should be added to the other’s plan or to continue on separate plans. This is also a good time to change beneficiary options.

9. How does your credit report look? It’s time for each part of the couple to familiarize with the other’s credit history. Use this as a chance to make sure there are no errors on the reports, retrievable from annualcreditreport.com. If you plan on buying a house as a couple, this step will make sure there are no surprises.

10. How will we tackle existing debt? This probably should have been included in question number 2 above. I believe debts incurred before joining together in marriage should almost always be handled by the individuals and should not be included in the merging of finances above, but there are bound to be exceptions.

Proper communication is one of the most important ways to keep a relationship healthy, and it doesn’t stop with talking about money-related issues. Monsy is simply another topic about which people in love should not be afraid to be open and honest.

Discussing these issues also doesn’t guarantee a smooth — or successful — marriage, but it couldn’t hurt.

Published or updated May 9, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar MillionDollarJourney.com

Couples really under estimate the importance of financial computability. I think I read somewhere that the number #1 source of argument between couples is money related.

FT

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avatar invest4life

Thanks, you bring up some great points that any couple in a serious relationship should consider

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avatar Golbguru

It’s ironic, but asking these questions might reduce your chances of getting hitched in the first place. ;)

In my opinion, money isn’t the #1 *source* of arguments – it’s the #1 *excuse * for arguments. The source is usually a general non-compatibility – which is more visible when it comes to money.

Having said that, it is extremely essential that couple discuss some of the points mentioned above – may be not while courting – but sometime later as the relationship matures.

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avatar Brenna

I recently got married and these questions are good to bring up prior to any talk of marriage. Although, once engaged the real question about finances and what you and your partner really think about money would be: “What’s the budget on the wedding?� And who’s paying for the wedding? Do you feel comfortable getting into debt or more debt for one day of celebration for other people? These questions will be sure to bring out the true perceptions or thoughts about money when thinking of getting married.

My husband and I have always agreed on our finances even prior to getting married. Our relationship has always depended on honest and open communication on everything. This is my take on the 10 questions and further questions to ask yourself and your partner:
1. At what age do you want to retire? How do you want your retirement years to be like? How will you get there?
2. If you are a young couple, say straight out of college�you’re probably have incurred some school loan debt. Be sure to ask and be on the same page as far as definition of what is an asset and what is a liability. Assets bring in money and liabilities take money away.
3. Combining or keeping separate accounts: a question to ask or to know about you and your partner would be: “Are you a saver or a spender?� This may guide whether to have separate accounts or to combine accounts. Take this a step further and decide how to deal with separate credit cards: do you authorize the other person, eliminate duplicate accounts for similar credit cards or do you establish a total new account for both people?
4. The question here would be more like: “What are our future investments?� Planning for the future such as how much you want to retire on or how soon you want to retire on will also decide tolerance on investments.
5. If living by paycheck to paycheck – a budget is in place. This “budget� is a fluid target that makes you and your partner aware where the money is going. Using Quicken or Microsoft Money will help not only see where the money is coming in and going out but also makes tax time easier. These programs also are able to pull out reports which can help as well.
6. Paying for bills should involve both people – this will lead to understanding of money, double-checking to make sure bills are paid prior to the deadline and more aware of money in general.
7. Risk tolerance will vary from time to time and adaptability is the key. Open communication is important and there’s nothing wrong with having one person being riskier than the other. Although, before any drastic changes occur an emergency fund should be established for any setbacks.
8. Health insurance: this should be a priority especially if thinking about having children. Getting the best service for the premiums will probably reduce costs later on. If one person is working – consider getting disability insurance because accidents can happen and you or your partner does not want to be caught off guard when bills can not be paid for. When looking at life insurance – consider whether term, annuity or variable is right for you.
9. Checking credit reports will also indicate how well your partner takes money seriously or whether they have established any credit at all. Remember credit checks are done for cars, jobs, renting, and getting loans. This is your real life report card so it is important to check yearly.
10. Do you know the difference of “bad� debt versus “good� debt? How will you and your partner tackle added on debt? Having a plan to get out of an existing debt will reduce any financial stress. Always expect to have bumps in the road and be creative in trying to get out of “bad� debt.

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