Marriage Advice for Family Members: 12 Questions to Ask Before Saying “I Do”
When a couple decides to get married, they are often lost in the moment and preparation for the “big event.” We have all heard about the let down when the honeymoon is over and reality sinks in.
Part of that reality is dealing with the financial aspects of having to make joint decisions regarding money. Getting married means combining your independent financial lives, in addition to the emotional changes. It can be challenging!
The following questions are the primary ones that will help get the conversation started. Of course, they will lead to more questions, and should be addressed by everyone getting engaged or even thinking about marriage.
Now, this advice may not apply to you, personally (but you never know!). This article may be the best gift you can give your son, daughter or grandchild who is thinking about taking the big step of getting married!
How Will We Share Living Expenses?
You have been paying your own bills and making all the financial decisions. Do you try and equalize the amounts paid for living expenses? Or do you share the expenses proportionally, if one person earns significantly more than the other?
Trying to get a handle on this issue before the first bills come in after the wedding, will go a long way to avoiding early marital conflicts!
Will We Maintain Separate or Joint Bank Accounts?
If both have been in the work force, earning money and paying their bills, why would they change?
In general, it makes sense to have a joint banking account, but maintaining one of your own is also very important. This is because each person needs to have “their” money that they can feel free to spend as they see fit and without having to ask the other party.
Would You Consider Yourself a Spender or Saver?
Being a spender is not a problem if they do not go into unsecured debt to maintain their lifestyle. If one is a saver and the other a spender, then it is very important to come to an understanding that allows for a balance, or there will be financial battles in your future!
However, a key to being financially successful is to have a “spending plan” that includes a saving component beyond what you contribute to your employer’s retirement plan. In other words, live beneath your means and you will accumulate assets for your future financial wellness.
When Purchasing Products or Services, Do You Typically Use a Debit or a Credit Card?
There is nothing wrong with using a credit card (VISA, MC) or charge card (AE) if they are not accumulating a balance that cannot be paid off monthly.
A debit card, on the other hand, can be convenient and a way not to overspend. Just be sure to check with your bank about the security and limit on loss should the card be stolen.
Do You Have an Emergency Fund?
If you have been working and living on your own, are you living pay check to pay check? Or have you been able to put a little something away for a rainy day?
If someone is spending every penny they earn without putting into savings, they are also likely to be in debt. Having an emergency fund is critical as job changes are much more of a frequent occurrence and can be a big blow to cash flow in the short term while finding a new position.
What Is Your Credit Score and Amount of Debt?
Questions about credit score and debt are simple enough but can have a major impact upon your overall financial wellness. Your ability to buy a car, get a mortgage or other credit can be significantly impacted by your credit score.
You can get a free credit report once a year from each of the credit rating companies, such as Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. What is the total amount of debt you currently have, including school loans, car loans and unsecured credit card debt? What do you do with individual debt being brought into the marriage?
What Are Your Views on Building an Estate and Leaving a Legacy?
This does not necessarily mean having to become rich! For many, a legacy can be your values and how you conduct your life. The first question might be, are you planning on having children, and if so, how many?
However, being married and raising a family does add responsibilities that may need to be protected with life insurance and disability insurance. If you can build wealth, then having the proper legal guidance for your estate can make a big difference in overall family financial wellness.
What Are Your Long-Term Career Goals?
Have they had numerous jobs, and have they stayed in the same industry? Job changes today are common, but beware of a person jumping around into different positions, especially if they are not related! Does one spouse plan to be a “stay-at-home” parent? If so, this needs to be discussed ahead of time.
What Do You Feel About Funding Children’s Higher Education Expenses?
This may be related to what a person has experienced in their own situation. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to start early and build a college savings plan on a tax favorable basis.
If You Won a Million-Dollar Lottery, What Would You Do with the Money?
This is a question more to do with maturity than anything else. If the first thought is to buy major items like cars and boats and travel extensively, you may be in danger of blowing the money in a short period of time.
There is no “ideal” answer to the question, but one that might include setting aside a portion to save and invest, paying off debt or buying a home that is affordable, may be a step in the right direction.
What Does Your One Best Financial Life Look Like?
Now you are going down the path to your dreams. Having an idea of what your best financial life might look like can help in planning and setting the goals for you that are obtainable. As it has been said many times, “It does not matter which path you take if you don’t know where you are going!”
What Are Your Biggest Financial Concerns That Would Prevent You from Reaching Your Long-Term Goals?
This is a wide-open question. It could be concerns about job security to family history of health concerns. The key here is to understand what the concerns are and if they are ones that would inhibit you from reaching your own goals.
Do you have a son or daughter – or even grandson or granddaughter – who is getting married soon? What is one piece of advice that you would give to a younger woman who is planning her wedding? Please join the conversation below!
Stan Corey is a CFP, ChFC and CPWA providing financial life management for more than 36 years. Stan has published a novel, The Divorce Dance, which is a story about a divorcing couple whereby the wife, Natalie, guides the reader though the divorce process and how to have a respectful divorce. Please visit his website.