Here’s the thing. Before Johnny and I said “I do,” we didn’t ask each other a single thing about finances. I knew Johnny liked to eat frozen burritos because he’d made them for me a time or two. He knew that I had student loan debt because I told him that after he’d already proposed. Because I’m evil. Or maybe I was just embarrassed.
And luckily, everything worked out. We were both very (very) young so neither of us had much in the way of financial baggage or make-or-break opinions. A joint checking account seemed like a romantic idea, as did changing my last name. Our naiveté worked in our favor since we were able to learn and grow together.
But let’s say that fateful day Johnny and I exchanged phone numbers never happened. Instead, here we are, both closing in on 30, and after swiping right (or is it left?) and getting matched up on Tinder, we’ve been dating for the last several months. We both have our own personal finance blogs, his about keeping a $20 monthly grocery bill (by filling up on Taco Tuesday, of course), and mine on living on a J.Crew-only “budget.” The “L” word has been said, the “M” word has been discussed at length, but so far, he hasn’t put a ring on it.
What financial questions should we ask each other before he pops the question? Here are a few we think would be helpful to get this discussion rolling…
1. How do you feel about budgeting?
If one or both of you is keeping a budget, you’ll probably say it right here. If you’re not, you’ll probably say something vague like, “Seems like a good idea,” or “I’m not opposed to it,” or, hopefully, “I’ve always wanted to, but I’m not sure where to start.” Now that’s an answer we can work with.
Once you’re engaged and a wedding date has been set, what better time to start tracking your spending together as you plan your big day? There doesn’t even necessarily have to be a strict budget in place, but it could provide a look into the type of financial personalities each of you has.
2. Do you have any debt?
Awkward question award. But it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Chances are, your future spouse has already spilled the beans on this one, but in case it’s never come up, it’s a must. There are situations where a spouse might be liable or where jointly owned assets can be seized by a lender. With that on the line, this question is definitely worth getting an answer on.
3. Have you put any money in savings?
You don’t need exact figures, but it’s good to have an idea of how much money you’ll be starting your marriage off with. Right after you get back from your fantasy-land honeymoon where money and jobs and weight gain don’t matter, you’ll likely start renting or buy a place together, which both require a significant amount of money up front. You’ll also need a more robust (at least double) emergency fund than what you needed when you were single.
4. How do you imagine finances working once we’re, ya know… married?
Hopefully, your question doesn’t actually sound just like that, but it is important to know whether your future spouse intends to share bank accounts, keep all your earnings separate, have each person be in charge of separate bills, etc. Johnny and I chose joint banking, but that’s not the answer for every couple (pssst, it is the answer but we’re just pretending like there are other valid opinions other than our own). Knowing what to expect is what’s most important.
5. What do you want from the future, and how are you going to make it happen?
Do you both want kids? Do you want to buy a home? Do you want to retire in Tahiti? Do you want to pay off your student loans in 5 years? Are you contributing to a 401k/Roth IRA, etc.? These are the questions of the future. Finding out how your future plans align will be one of the main keys to financial success. Chances are good that if you’ve made it to wanting to marry each other, you both want a lot of the same things from the future.
Once you’ve finished up your financial confessional, you’ll be that much closer to walking down the aisle with less financial worry so that you can focus on not tripping/fainting/tossing-the-garter-to-your-younger-brother (gross) on your wedding day. Some of your significant other’s answers might not be what you were hoping for, but you’ll compromise and work as a team to get it figured out. Because, duh, that’s what this whole marriage thing is all about.