Marriage is a joining of lives and assets, so it's important to consider debt. It might be an uncomfortable conversation, but chatting about what you both owe in loans and credit cards will help you begin your life together with complete transparency. It's also a great opportunity to find out how your partner feels about debt. "Some people are comfortable carrying credit card balances. Others are not, and that can be a big area of stress if it's something they're not used to, says certified financial planner Nathan Eads in an interview with Money. Have an open and honest conversation about the debt you both bring to the relationship. Delve beyond the numbers, and find out what emotional impact it could have.
Asking this simple question could reveal a lot about the future of your relationship, says pastoral counselor Pamela Ayo Yetunde. Talk about whether either of you ties self-worth to a salary, and how you think funds should be managed. For example, if one person earns more money, do they believe they have the right to make all the financial decisions? "If equality is valued and what they're striving for, then it can't be based on how much people are making, because it's not likely people are going to be making the same amount of money," says Yetunde. "The kind of equality that is beneficial in a relationship is one of inherent, not extrinsic, worth."
If you've been with your partner for years, you might suspect you know the answer to this question, but Yetunde says it's still a vital discussion. Given there will be times when you'll both need to splurge or save for an investment, it's good to have a clear understanding of your default habits. "It's going to take time for a spender to become a saver, and the saver may never become a spender," says Yetunde.
You might be surprised by the answer to this question. One of you might be under the impression a sole joint account would suffice, while the other might feel more comfortable with a personal account on the side. Both options are okay. Just be sure to workshop what kind of financial setup works best, and give each account a clear purpose, such as paying joint bills or handling personal expenses.
Talking about a retirement plan might not be a pre-wedding priority, but it should be. "I've seen cases where one person is a saver and the other is not," says Eads. "The saver has continued to save in a 401(k) and the other one doesn't, but when you look at it, the other person's 401(k) actually offered a better match and was a better plan—and there was no reason not to be taking advantage of that. You want to have an idea of Are we missing out on anything or not doing something that's beneficial?" he says.
Whether it's to have three children, live overseas, or take an exotic holiday every year, big dreams require financial planning. This doesn't have to be a serious conversation—have fun with it! Talk about your biggest, wildest dreams and how you would create a life together. Just be sure to consider what measures you might need to take beforehand to make your dreams a reality.
Ready to have the money chat with your partner? For more financial advice, visit Forbes.
Shop the book below to find out how to successfully merge your money as a couple.
Are you a spender or a saver? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below.