After being together for three years, 26-year-old Paula* felt like she and her boyfriend Warren* were ready to take the next step. “I thought we already knew everything there is to know about each other,” she says. “It felt like we were practically married already.”
But soon after they got engaged, she started to suspect that something was wrong. Items around Warren’s apartment started to disappear. His credit cards were declined at restaurants. And at one time, Paula was surprised to find that her wallet was totally cleaned out of cash even though she had just made a big withdrawal.
Paula soon learned that Warren had a huge gambling addiction, and was deep in debt. They ended up postponing the wedding, and after a month, calling it off altogether. The bright side is that Paula discovered all this before she tied the knot, but others aren’t as lucky.
Financial discussions before marriage
Though you and your partner might not have financial troubles as bad as Warren’s, discussing finances before getting married is absolutely necessary. Here are some financial discussions before marriage that you should have even before you walk down the aisle.
1. What’s your financial situation like?
When you’re single, it’s perfectly normal to stay hush-hush about how much is in your bank account, how many investments you’ve made, and what your credit situation is like. But when you’re thiiis close to starting a life-long commitment, it’s a whole different ball game.
Talk about not just your current financial situation but also the past. If you’ve made any bad financial decisions in the past, talk about it and how you’ve moved on from it. Before it becomes a cause of conflict down the road, both of you have to air out your dirty laundry and know what exactly you’re getting into.
2.What are your financial goals?
Your picture of financial success might be drastically different from your partner’s. He could be happy with just the bare necessities, while you would want to have more security so financial surprises won’t catch you off-guard.
Discuss both short-term and long-term goals. What kind of house or city would you want to live in after getting married? At what age do you want to retire? By discussing and aligning your goals, you can work as a team instead of clashing.
3.How do you want to make financial decisions after marriage?
Does your husband expect you to be a stay-at-home mom and handle the household budget while he works, because that’s how his parents did it? Maybe you expect to be a two-income household because it’s the only way you can maintain the lifestyle you want. Talk about what you expect from each other—but remember to keep an open mind.
4. Will we be merging our finances?
Millennials are more open to starting a bank account with their partner. Some don’t even wait until marriage. According to TD Bank, 70% of millennial couples wait until marriage to start a joint bank account, versus 88% of older generations.
Opening a joint bank account has its pros and cons, and both of you need to be aware of that before you take the next step. Read more here: Should Married Couples Have Separate or Joint Bank Accounts?
5.What are wants, and what are needs?
Do you feel like you absolutely need to have a designer bag so you can make a good impression at work? Does your partner think you have to live in that swanky neighbourhood?
The reasoning behind these beliefs may be valid, but understand that you and your partner’s priorities can be totally different. Find out where your beliefs clash, and how you can compromise.
6.How do you feel about getting a prenup?
Yeah, I get that the mere mention of a prenup can just shut down all those lovey-dovey feelings that you associate with marriage, but you gotta be realistic. Though you might not be able to imagine it happening to you, a number of marriages end up in divorce and things get messier when neither signed a prenup.
So while you believe that the chances of you getting a divorce is next to zero, it might still make sense for you or your partner to at least have a discussion on whether or not you’d like to have a prenup.
Marriage isn’t all fun and games. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most of it isn’t. It’s a lot of hard work, but having the right partner makes it all worth it. Save yourselves a lot of heartache in the future. Make sure that you and your spouse-to-be are on the same team. It’ll never be smooth sailing, but you’ll know that someone has your back, and that makes all the difference.
*Names have been changed for privacy.
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