In all the planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, there is one important item that the couple should add to their â€œto-doâ€™sâ€ before the â€œI doâ€™s,â€ and thatâ€™s an assessment of their financial compatibility.
The fact of the matter is that people bring financial baggage into a relationship, and often donâ€™t deal with it until problems arise. Perhaps that baggage comes in the form of a poor credit rating, significant debt, or no experience managing money. Regardless of the issue, the time to address money differences is up front, before the financial bottom falls out. The last thing newlyweds need is more stress, but in todayâ€™s economic environment, concern over money matters is more intense than ever.
The NFCC recommends discussing the following financial basics before walking down the aisle.
- How much debt do you each have? This would include credit card debt, vehicle loans, as well as student loan obligations. Donâ€™t hide anything, as thatâ€™s really getting off on the wrong foot.
- Review each otherâ€™s credit reports and credit scores. Each person has their own report and score, but knowing who is in better shape financially can provide direction when making large purchases down the road.
- What is your attitude toward saving? People know what this answer should be, so itâ€™s important to be honest and realistic or any plan that you develop is sure to fail.
- Whatâ€™s your attitude toward spending? Do you want a joint checking account or separate ones? Will each wage earner keep his or her paycheck and spend it as they please, or will the money be pooled?
- Who will be responsible for each household expense? Will the dollar amount be divided evenly? Prorated by earnings? Should the one who earns the most pay for everything?
- How much â€œmad moneyâ€ is reasonable for each person to spend independently each month with no questions asked?
- Do you believe that retirement planning is something that should start now, or can it be put off? Should both parties contribute to the retirement account?
- How do you feel about lending money to family and friends? This question is sure to come up over the course of a lifetime together, so itâ€™s best to firm up the answer prior to an emotional situation.
- What about caring for aging parents? This may mean that you need to have a discussion with each set of parents. Itâ€™s a hard topic to broach, but nonetheless necessary. You may find out that theyâ€™ve already made arrangements for themselves, but you wonâ€™t know if you donâ€™t talk about it.
- What are your short and long term financial goals? Itâ€™s fine to have your individual goals, but itâ€™s also important to have family goals, too, things that you can build toward together.
For professional assistance bringing two incomes, two lifestyles and two financial attitudes together, or for help in working through financial problems that have never been addressed, consider an appointment with a certified consumer credit counselor at an NFCC Member Agency. To find the agency closest to you, call (800) 388-2227, or visit www.DebtAdvice.org.