How do you both feel about finances? Money is a big issue in marriage, I am sure you have heard, so you must discuss your monetary thoughts and opinions. Does only one save and the other spend? Will you have a budget?
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.
Should we have a joint checking account or separate accounts or both?
Who is going to be responsible for making sure that bills are paid on time?
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?
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! If not, arguments will likely center around this topic during the marriage.
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) and what your budget actually is per month. Include all of your expenses- both reoccurring and incidental so that you are both on the same page with your spending.
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 $1000. Decide on an amount that will help you to live within your means and not create resentment. Establish a guideline to oversee each others spending but without making the other partner feel like their spending is being micro managed.
What percentage of our income are we prepared to spend to purchase and maintain our home on a monthly or annual basis?
How much money do we earn together? Now? In one year? In five years? Ten? Who is responsible for which portion? Now? In one year? Five? Ten?
What are our categories of expense (rent, clothing, insurance, travel)? How much do we spend monthly, annually, in each category? How much do we want to be able to spend?
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.
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.
Are we in debt? What are our plans for getting out of debt, and do we have retirement goals? Have we taken a money management course for couples? A money-making premarital question: Who’s responsible for the investments?
What are our assets?
How do you feel about budgeting? Do you want to have a budget?
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!
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.
What is our ultimate financial goal regarding annual income, and when do we anticipate achieving it? By what means and through what efforts? 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.
Am I a spender or saver – and what’s my partner? Are we comfortable spending money on the same things (such as organic food), or do we argue about money on dates or vacations (such as who should pick up the tab)? Another premarital question about money: Will we have joint or separate accounts, and who will pay the bills?
Do you consider going to the movies and having a vacation every year a necessity or a luxury?
What are our future plans for purchasing a home?
Do we both know where our important financial documents are located?
How many credit cards do you have? What are the balances and interest rates on each of those cards?
Do you pay your bills ahead of time, on the due date or late?
Are there dings on your credit history that might affect our ability to reach our financial goals? What is your credit score? Can I see your credit report?
Do you have any regular “guilty pleasures” (like buying Coach purses, gambling or Xbox games) that I need to know about?