Questions to Ask Before Marriage: Money Edition

Questions to Ask Before MarriageIf you are engaged to be married and have not yet had a conversation about money and your soon-to-be-shared finances, you may be looking for some questions to ask before marriage. Since money is one of the leading causes of divorce, it makes sense to see where each person in the relationship stands financially, and where they see the family headed into the future.

While some couples know everything about each others’ finances, many out there are hesitant to come clean with their details. Hidden debts. Defaults. Chargeoffs. Settlements. Bankruptcy. Even if there are no blemishes, people are naturally inclined to be private about their finances.

Just as I believe you shouldn’t marry someone for their money, you also shouldn’t avoid marrying someone for their debt. Love is the most important thing, and with a committed plan, couples can clean up any money problems that are brought into the relationship (except maybe tax evasion, fraud or money laundering).

Here are some steps couples can take and questions to ask before marriage to know the things that need to be shared to have a happy and prosperous relationship. Trust me, we made the mistake of proceeding with a “my money and my bills” approach instead of “our money and our bills,” and it made our debt payoff take even longer.

5 Questions to Ask Before Marriage

1. What is Your Income?

Believe it nor not, some couples don’t know what each other makes. Sure, they probably have an idea, but if they don’t live together and maintain separate financial lives, they may not know. Now that you are engaged, it’s time to tell each other your yearly income.

2. What Debt do You Owe?

It is important to know how much debt each partner has, because after marriage, it will be a shared debt. That means once you get married you can get right to work tackling your debts and paying them off in the order you deem best. I recommend paying them off smallest to largest, snowball style, but you may prefer to attack based on interest rate. It’s your choice.

3. What is Your Net Worth?

This is just a math problem: your total liabilities subtracted from your total assets. For many young people, their net worth is zero or negative. Don’t be worried, this is normal for people carrying student loan and credit card debt, fresh out of college.

4. What Savings Do You Have?

This question is designed to ferret out any hidden savings accounts, certificates of deposit, stashes of gold and silver, stocks, bond, etc. It is important to be open and honest about all financial resources – every option should be on the table. Be prepared for neither partner to have any savings – this is normal.

5. What Are Your Financial Goals?

It would be foolish to get married and find out your partner does not share your long term financial goals. If you haven’t given them much thought, at least talk about them in broad terms so that it is out there as an important topic. Some people were taught to invest before paying off debt, and others were taught the opposite. Some were taught nothing and have no goals. This is fine, too, and presents a good opportunity to start making some.


The Right Questions to Ask Before Marriage

The right questions to ask before marriage when it comes to money can prevent you from wasting years with unaligned financial paths. What those questions are depend on how open you’ve been with your finances.

Like I said before, debt alone should not be a reason to avoid marriage if love is there. Also, if neither partner has money problems and both prefer to maintain separate finances, there is no problem with that.

But if you both share a mutual desire to take control of your money and make it work for you, these questions can lead you to answers. By getting on the same page and putting your efforts towards one goal, two people working hard and together cannot fail.


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37 thoughts on “Questions to Ask Before Marriage: Money Edition

  1. The boy and I have known these points about eachother since we started dating – or at least, as long as I can remember being with him. We don’t combine finances and I’m not sure that we will 100% when we get married, but for now, just knowing where we’re at is really helpful!

  2. Do you think asking about Educational goals is also an important question?

    If someone plans on getting a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree & a PhD- then their income will be delayed. Many people will forget that paying for graduate school should be part of your financial goals.

  3. John,

    I agree with you about getting naked financially before marriage. But, I believe that person’s attitude towards money and other things in life defines his or her character. And, that’s very important for any long term relationship.

  4. New York Times did a really good series on this topic a couple of years ago. One of their question is “what is our desired level of affluence?” (or, put it a little more crassly, “how rich do we want to be?”). This is an important question because many high-earning jobs have very heavy demands on one’s personal life (think BigLaw or finance).
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..2012 Clothing Purchases, January & FebruaryMy Profile

    • Yes. Doctors and lawyers have to put on a public show of wealth, otherwise they risk losing clientele. No one wants a poor looking or “thrifty” doctor!

  5. These are all “what is your status” questions, which I agree are essential. However, like Shilpan I think that the “what is your attitude” questions are just as important and more indicative of long-term compatibility. Knowing your partner has debt, for instance, doesn’t tell you how he feels about the debt and under what circumstances he would take on debt in the future. I would say that having different “money personalities” – spender/saver, level of risk-taking – is much more likely to plague the relationship long-term than any specific account you hold at the start of a marriage. During premarital counseling my husband and I also discussed how our families of origin have affected our attitudes concerning finances, which gave us more insight into our own as well as each other’s dispositions toward money. Very useful exercise.
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  6. This post brings back memories. When my husband and I had been dating for a short while we had the money talk. We heard each others view points on spending and money management and then we discussed our current situations. There were some gaps to fill but this was a great way to enter into a marriage later on. Neither one of us was hiding anything that could later blow up.

  7. Very, very important to ask such questions. Of these, I think that #5 is actually the most important, as well as habits (saver/spender), views on gender roles and money, etc. Being on the same page is a good thing.

    Now, I do think that there are other factors of compatibility that are of a truly higher priority than money. However, that doesn’t negate the impact of money values and habits. It’s truly important, and the lack of a shared commitment in this area can lead to problems later. Good post!
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  8. all these questions make sense and I think its a good idea to clear everything like this up before getting married, however, I will add that my mum and dad have been happily married for over 50 years and my mum still doesnt have a clue how much she earns herself let alone my dads savings/accounts or anything else, its not advisable but I guess it works for some people!
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  9. Talking about money before marriage could be one of the less romantic talks a couple will have. However, if you are seriously thinking about marrying someone it is wise to know what you are getting into.

    Questions like the ones in your post coupled with deeper conversations surrounding debt management/avoidance can really help a couple determine their readiness/compatibility for marriage.

    Looking back I wish my wife and I would of had a money talk prior to marriage. We still would of gotten married. We just would have come to a consensus on how we would handle money as a couple.
    Tony | Money and Matrimony recently posted..Head vs. HeartMy Profile

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