So, in preparation, I’ve been coming up with a list of financial issues that we need to have clear before we take the plunge.
1. Current financial position
Talking money is awkward, but this is a conversation you need to have before you marry someone. You need to know exactly his or her debt levels, earnings, savings and if there any nasty surprises (say, a gambling debt).
If one partner has a sizeable debt that needs repaying, that’s not a major problem; just something that needs to be planned for. Similarly, if one of you has problems managing money, you could discuss allowing the partner with better money-management skills to handle your finances.
Marriage is about forming a solid partnership to deal with life, and putting your best financial foot forward is a key element of that. In order to do so, you need all the facts.
2. Future financial goals
Once you’re married, you’re going to be planning as a team, so your personal savings plan is going to have to change to deal with that.
Sit down and talk about your goals for home ownership, retirement, short-term savings and so on, and then develop a plan for how you will save for those goals.
You might find that you are not completely on the same page when it comes to financial goals. That’s OK, you just need to work through your differences to come up with some goals that work for both of you.
One of you may want to live in a small house and travel a lot, while the other wants a big house that will use up all your income. Discuss it, and find ways to compromise.
The conversation could be tough, but keep at it until you come up with a shared vision.
3. How will you manage the day-to-day money stuff?
Once you have a broad picture of your financial status and goals, you need to talk about how you’ll manage the everyday practicalities.
One of you is almost certainly going to be earning more than the other, so how will you deal with that? Will you both put, say, 25% of your salary into a pooled account to cover shared expenses and manage the rest of your money independently?
Will you both put a proportion of your money into a shared retirement savings fund?
If only one of you will be working, how will you share resources?
Will the person with a salary set aside an amount for shared expenses that both people have access to?
You should draw up a joint budget that both of you are happy with, and then decide who will monitor that budget and how.
If you’re already living together, you’ve probably already developed some ways of handling money stuff, but before you make your commitments, make sure that these are working for both of you and change anything that isn’t working.
And since financial problems are a leading cause of divorce, the investment of time and effort here could well save your marriage. So go ahead, and do it.