Bursting the love bubble by sitting down and having a serious talk about finances is never fun, but open communication about money is a good idea in any relationship.
Those thinking of tying the knot should have a serious discussion about money at some point, preferably before you move in together or get married. Even if there are no plans to combine finances completely, it’s still good to clear the air and see if everyone is on the same page.
Here are five things that to talk about before moving forward:
One of the biggest things you need to talk about is debt. Get it out there. Even if you won’t be sharing finances, one person’s debt can have a profound impact on household finances. If you want to buy a home together or if you want to do other things, someone’s obligations can hold you back as a couple.
Have an honest talk about your debt levels, and see if you can make a plan to pay down the debt. Even if you don’t share finances, the partner without the debt is going to have to be supportive until the debt is paid off.
Credit goes along with debt, but it isn’t exactly the same thing. While it’s not vital that your partner have a perfect credit score, it is a good idea to see where you both stand, and be honest about the situation.
At some point, if you decide to get a joint loan together (for a car or a home), both of your credit scores will matter. Talk about it so you know what you need to do to get things up to scratch. If one of you has a poor score, you might have to wait a little longer before you accomplish some of your goals.
3. Money Philosophy
This is a bigger deal than you might think. For a long time, my ex and I struggled in our marriage because he likes things and I value experiences. Neither of us was more right than the other, but it did make for some interesting discussions when we were nailing down our money priorities.
It’s a good idea to know whether or not you have the same money values before you take that next step. Spenders and savers need to be able to come up with a plan to compromise. If you like spending your money on lots of books, and your partner prefers movies, you might need to come up with a plan to make sure you both get what you want at least some of the time.
4. How to Handle Kids and Money
If you think you’ll have kids together (and that’s another conversation you need to have before taking things to the next level), you need to talk about how you’ll handle kids and money.
Do you want to save up for college for them? How will you handle allowance? Extracurricular activities?
These are big questions you need to tackle together so you are on the same page. It’s vital to know early on so that you aren’t unpleasantly surprised later.
Chances are, you both want to save for retirement. But do you have a shared vision for what that looks like? Before you commit to a long-term, life partner relationship, make sure you talk about how you want to handle retirement. It can be tough if one of you expects to sit at home most of the time, and maybe play golf a couple times a week, while the other wants to sell the house and everything in it to travel the world.
In the end, you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page so that all the money goals are being reached together. Take the time to have a discussion now so there are fewer surprises later.