Before tying the knot, there’s a few things you really should know about your partner like how they view finances.
“Money can often be the elephant in the room for couples, and that’s why I encourage addressing it early and head-on,” Jeff Guenther, a therapist living in Portland, Oregon, and the brain behind Therapy Jeff on Instagram, told Newsweek. “Being on the same financial page with your partner isn’t just about avoiding fights over who forgot to pay the Netflix bill. It’s a window into a shared vision of your future: how you value experiences, how you prioritize your family, and how you define success.”
For Guenther, financial incompatibility is often a key issue that brings couples into his office. Whether it’s differing attitudes on spending and saving or underlying power dynamics linked to who earns more, the issues can erode all the trust and harmony that are essential to long term relationships.
To keep your relationship in check and make sure you’re truly financially compatible, Guenther has a list of questions every couple should explore before the big day.
1. How much money do you want to bring in annually as a couple?
While both people in the relationship are likely to bring in different amounts of money to the home, having a broad idea of the financial life you want to live is necessary before you say your “I do.”
If one person in the relationship doesn’t feel like the other one has the same financial goals or lifestyle, it can create significant turmoil down the line, according to Guenther.
Any possible family down the road will be impacted by the money you plan to bring into the household as well, so it’s vital you have this discussion earlier rather than later.
2. Do we agree on financial boundaries, like lending money, with extended family and friends?
Nothing can break a couple faster than one party viewing the other as financially irresponsible. This can easily happen if one individual sees lending money to family and friends in a light different than the other.
If one person views this act as a generous, but necessary thing to do with their loved ones on occasion and the other believes it’s something to be avoided at all costs, there could be significant strife in the relationship, according to Guenther.
That’s why it’s best to have these conversations sooner rather than later, so the couple can decide on their policy together and keep all lines of communication open.
3. One partner will probably make more money than the other, does that affect who will choose to spend the money? Will it affect the power balance in the relationship?
Power dynamics in a relationship can be deeply rooted in money. When a significant salary difference is at play, some partners can become controlling and view the couple’s net money as solely their own.
That’s why having an early discussion on how you choose to spend your collective money is essential to creating healthy boundaries moving forward.
4. What are your thoughts on my approach to money? Do you understand the reasons behind my financial habits and feelings?
This is a key question to promote greater understanding and empathy between any couple.
Ensuring you understand each other’s approach and values regarding money will help both parties foster a strong relationship moving forward, and it guarantees both people feel heard within the relationship.
5. Do we both understand the legal implications for dividing our money and assets if we divorce, and are we comfortable with those terms?
No couple wants to bridge the topic of divorce when preparing for a future together, but it’s an essential part of any union.
How you view prenuptial agreements and splitting up finances and assets in the event that you do get divorced needs to be on the same page with your partner in order to avoid a lengthy and costly court procedure down the road.
According to The Motley Fool, a financial services company, the average divorce costs $12,900, which gets more expensive if you both don’t go in with the same expectations.
6. What do you want our savings plan to look like?
Savings can make or break a couple when it comes to their views on vacations, retirement, children and nearly every other purchase under the sun.
Conventional wisdom is to keep enough money in savings to cover a three month employment gap in case you ever lose your job or an unexpected, but urgent cost comes up.
However, depending on you or your partner and your financial situations, you might expect a bit more or less. That’s why you should take on the topic head on before it has the potential to run your relationship into the ground.
7. Will we have a budget and how will it be determined?
Budgeting is essential for a couple to plan for the future and any lifelong goals, whether that’s buying a house or having children.
If you and your partner disagree on where your money is going and how much should be given to certain aspects of your life, the partnership is likely not built to last.
8. Would you rather spend more money on things or experiences?
A key part of figuring out your individual and couple budget is by determining what you value more: things or experiences.
Some will save up for material items while others would prefer to splurge on a trip across the world. Each couple needs to be aligned on how these values affect their relationship and its trajectory moving forward.
9. Will we have two individual checking accounts or one joint account?
A joint account can be the root of all evil for some couples. Still, others prefer one to feel properly connected on their financial goals.
Still, there are certain situations where having a joint account might not make sense.
“Even if both spouses are on-board with the idea of joint accounts there are some situations where you’re better off keeping things separate,” retirement and investing expert Rebecca Lake wrote on SmartAsset, a consumer-focused financial information and advice website.
Lake continued: “If one of you has racked up a ton of debt because of poor financial decisions, maintaining separate accounts can protect the more fiscally responsible spouse if debt collectors come calling, as joint accounts with rights of survivorship passes sole responsibility of the joint account to one spouse if one co-owner passes away.”
10. How do we each create value in this relationship besides earning income?
If your ideas about what you bring to the relationship are solely based upon income, you run the risk of the lower earner in the relationship feeling invalidated and unvalued.
So, Guenther said, avoid that downfall by discussing early on what each brings to the table and what you get from each other beyond mere salary.
11. What are our financial retirement goals? Do you plan to retire at 65? 70? 55?
This question will drive you and your partner’s spending habits and general lifestyle choices, so it’s best to talk through what it looks like early on.
Financial advisers tend to recommend those in retirement to have roughly 80 percent of their yearly income saved up per year, but investments can make those goals much easier to achieve.
12. How much do you intend to give to charities?
Some value giving a significant amount of money to charities if they are financially able to do so. Does your partner have the same view?
You need to dissect this question now so there are no fights at the end of the year when you see how much your partner has given to a charity of their choosing instead of on your life together.