Kingsley Ndimele: Money Questions You Should Ask Your Partner Before Saying “I Do”
How would you feel if, after your wedding day, you discover that your partner is addicted to Bet9ja or Baba Ijebu? Or he/she is a shopping addict? How will you react if you later find out that you are starting your marriage in debt that your partner owed?
In every loving relationship, money and marriage go hand-in-hand. Before you finally walk down the aisle with the love of your life, there are tough discussions that must be made. I call it tough because ‘finance’ is not a romantic topic for intending couples. Your partner may feel humiliated, feel you are asking very private questions, or thinks it’s not worth discussing. The conversation may also feel awkward or uncomfortable, but it can get worse if you do not have it.
Don’t be blindfolded by love. Listen with caution and look out for the warning signs. Don’t be too overwhelmed with your wedding plans that you forget to plan your financial future. Before you tie the knot, you need to have a significant degree of financial confidence in your relationship.
No one who has the ring on their fourth finger ever wishes for a divorce, but it does happen. For this reason, you need to discuss money issues deeply with your partner before finally getting into the marriage journey. You do not need to be shy about it. Until you have this discussion with your partner, you are not ready for marriage.
If you are not sure about how to start the conversation, a simple question like, “Honey, if you win ₦10 million today, how will you spend it” will help. In your journey to financial freedom, marriage should make you better off, not worse off, so before making that long-term commitment, there are 12 important money questions that you need to ask your partner.
What was your financial upbringing like?
Why you need to have an open dialogue regarding your partner’s upbringing is because oftentimes, your partner’s family background will have a significant impact on how they think about money or plan family finances.
For instance, if your partner was brought up in a home where they eat out more often than they cook their meals, this question will serve as an eye-opener for you. The way your partner was brought up shapes their financial goals and perspectives about marriage. It has been observed that partners often make the same money mistake that their parents made too.
If your partner’s parents were not so good with money, the chances are that your partner may not be too. A good way to begin is to ask your partner about their biggest money mistake or regret.
How much money do we need to live comfortably?
You may discover that your combined salary is not sufficient to cover your living expenses as a couple, because you haven’t discussed what means you need to live within, or how much you need to live the kind of life you want.
At this point, you need to be realistic with your finances and planning. You need to say “this is what we currently have, is this okay for us to live comfortably? What does living comfortably mean for us? Do we need to make more? How much will make us comfortable? If you do not spell things out, you may end up with no savings and be in debt.
How will we spend, save and invest our money?
If your partner is an aggressive saver, and you are the enjoyment minister, you and your partner must decide beforehand how family finances will be spent, saved, and invested. Your partner must have the liberty to spend some of their hard-earned money without seeking your permission for every item.
If you are intentional about building family wealth, then saving and investment should be a deliberate act. Decide a suitable investment depending on your risk tolerance. Preferably, seek investment advice first. Saving too much is as bad as spending too much because it will affect your relationship in the long run. You need to have some money set aside for fun.
What kind of lifestyle do you desire, and what are your financial goals?
Some partners love a luxurious lifestyle, while others want a simple, low-key life. You must understand that you and your partner may desire a certain lifestyle, but your financial goals may be contrary. If you want to have a home or retire early, you may have to sacrifice some expensive lifestyle and vacations
If your partner has career ambitions that require acquiring additional certificates, or your partner hopes to leave a 9 -5 job to start a business, living an expensive lifestyle in your early days will not be a wise financial decision.
You need to ensure that your lifestyle and financial goals are compatible.
How are we going to divide financial responsibilities?
Irrespective of who earns a higher monthly income, you need to decide who is going to be responsible for some of the household bills or how it is going to be shared. This will prevent disagreement. Also, if there are children from a previous relationship, who will be financially responsible for them?
If you don’t discuss these issues before marriage, you may be shocked to later discover that your sweetheart belongs to the class of “My money is my money, but your money is our money”.
How much income do you earn, and how many assets and debts do you have?
This is the time to get financially naked and brutally sincere with one another. No hiding place. Be plain. Never hide your monthly income from your partner. How much your partner earns is your business. Don’t feel embarrassed or intimidated to ask. Don’t also conclude it is not your business. It is not taboo or disrespectful to ask. It is also your business.
As intending couples, you need to know how many assets or outstanding debt each partner owns before marriage and how they plan to repay their debts. Although your partner’s debt is their responsibility, it could still affect you too. Sometimes, it may become a marriage debt that both of you will end up paying together.
How much money should be in our emergency fund?
An emergency fund is highly recommended for every family. It is a fund set aside to cover unforeseen family expenses that may arise. Ideally, you should set aside an equivalent or at least 3 – 6 monthly expenses as your emergency fund. As couples, each partner will have to contribute to the fund and keep it in a family wallet that is easily accessible.
What kind of purchases must we both agree on before getting married?
Can two walk together except they agree? Every successful marriage needs joint planning. When it comes to family finances, you need to discuss with your partner before making some major purchase decisions.
Knowing the maximum that you can spend before consulting your partner will help you to prevent future disagreements about overspending. With a family budget, you will be able to keep your spending in check.
What is our financial responsibility towards other family members?
As partners, you have to agree on how much will be set aside from your income to take care of extended family responsibilities. One of these is how your aging parents will be taken care of and how you will support other family members.
In a situation where your partner is the more generous one, you need to set boundaries about how much money you can give and which circumstances warrant your generosity. If you or your partner intend to ever have any of your parents or siblings live with you, the best time to discuss this is before marriage.
Do we keep our money in individual or joint accounts?
Although marriage is a partnership, having a joint account as a couple is not a must. In marriage, what works for others may not necessarily work for you. There are advantages and disadvantages of keeping a joint account. Just ensure that you have an agreement with your partner and do what works for you.
How many children will we be having?
The number of children you intend to have will affect your family financially in a huge way. You need to know the financial cost of having children. You also need to know when you are financially buoyant to have more kids.
The cost of education is increasing every day. If you want your children to go to a public or private school, discuss it before marriage and start planning towards it.
How will we resolve financial conflicts?
Generally, people get very emotional when money issues are being discussed. Interestingly, most financial disagreement is not really about money, they are often about equality, being listened to, being respected, and being loved. A recurrent financial disagreement may not be about money but fundamental issues about power and cooperation.
I cannot guarantee that there won’t still be some arguments regarding money in your marriage, but having these money-related discussions will help you to reduce financial conflicts and bad surprises.
Before making the “for richer or for poorer” vow, know your partner’s financial status. Don’t hold back any secret regarding your financial history. If you are not comfortable with the answers you are getting from your partner, or you and your partner are unable to reach any meaningful agreement, seek the counsel of a finance coach. Premarital financial counselling is cheaper than a divorce process.
Featured image: Dreamstime