Congratulations, you just got engaged. This is the time of year when so many people do.
In fact, some 6 million couples get engaged on Valentine’s Day in any given year, according to an American Express report. That makes it the second most popular day to say “I will,” behind only Christmas.
But how many of you will talk finances before you walk down the aisle? Probably just a handful, even though it’s far more important than the cake, flowers and invitations. Save yourself some arguments later by talking about your money now.
Here are a few of the questions you need to ask your soon-to-be spouse.
Where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years?
Do you both want children right away? Would one of you prefer to land a new job before you consider having kids? And what about those long-term plans to get a business degree -- is that ever going to happen?
You need to sit down and have a conversation, discussing your hopes, dreams and aspirations. Then set priorities and come up with a plan to meet your short and long-term goals, one by one – together. This will help ensure a positive outcome.
What are your assets? Liabilities?
You really need to know where the other person stands. If you have assets that need to be protected, consider a prenuptial agreement (particularly if this is a second marriage and there are kids, step-kids and others involved). Saddled with high-interest debt? Come up with a plan to eliminate it -—-preferably before the marriage.
What is your risk tolerance?
In just every relationship, there’s a spender and a saver, but it doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed, providing you’re willing to communicate and compromise, says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, CEO and co-founder of AskTheMoneyCoach.com.
“This means no financial secrets, like hiding purchases or having hidden accounts. It also means you have to be open-minded and flexible to understand your partner’s point of view and not assume that your way is the only way,” she said.
What’s your credit like?
There are several reasons marrying into good credit is important, says credit expert John Ulzheimer, formerly of FICO and Equifax. First, it's likely you'll start to co-mingle your liabilities once you’re married and it would be nice if there was full disclosure as to the amount, the cost, and the type of debt you're now assuming as a new spouse. Second, does your spouse respect the credit process, or are they more likely to ignore due dates and credit limits?
“If your new spouse has lousy credit, it will certainly bleed over into your collective bottom line. You're going to rent an apartment, insure your cars, maybe buy a house, and each of these life events, as well as countless others, are going to be heavily influenced by the quality of your collective credit,” says Ulzheimer.
Where will we live? And how will we come up with a down payment?
Again, this comes down to basic planning. And planning starts with a conversation, says Khalfani-Cox.
“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of open communication,” she says.
Once you decide on where you would like to live, and what you want in a house (List your priorities – what you can/cannot live with/without), you then need to figure out what you can afford. This entails taking a hard look at your income and expenses, and ultimately setting up a budget. What can you comfortably afford to pay every month for the next 15, 30 years? Coming up with the down payment -- typically 20 percent -- is just the start.
How will we divvy up financial responsibilities?
Some couples like to combine all their finances; others prefer to have a joint account for the household expenses (which you each contribute to proportionately, based on how much you each make), and separate accounts for personal spending. Do what works best for you and your spending/saving habits. Just have a system.
Vera Gibbons is the Founder of nonpoliticalnews.com which produces “NoPo” - a free daily newsletter that covers and curates non-political news only within Consumer/Personal Finance; Health & Wellness; Fashion/Beauty; Fitness/Diet.