Money troubles are the leading cause of divorce, and yet people may spend more time discussing what wedding invitations to buy and what venue to choose for their reception rather than how they will handle their money after marriage. Your wedding is only one day, yes, an important day, but only one day. Your marriage will last for years and, hopefully, decades. Take the time to discuss how you will handle money before you take the plunge.
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If you don’t know where to start, consider tackling these issues:
1. How did your parents handle their money? Whether we want to admit it or not, we learn by what we see our parents doing, and how they handle money might naturally be the way we handle money.
Luckily my spouse and I both came from families where the woman handled the money. Unfortunately, we also came from families where the men choose to not be involved with the finances. It feels natural for us that I handle the money and the budget, but we both struggle to get my husband more involved in financial decisions. If you come from a family where the man-made all of the decisions and your spouse came from a family where no one really made financial decisions, you may struggle to each find your role in taking care of the family finances.
2. Will you merge your money after marriage? There is no right or wrong answer to this. Some couples take the approach of what is mine is yours, both for debt that they may bring into the marriage and for earnings they make over the course of the marriage. Others prefer to keep finances entirely separate, and still others choose a hybrid approach where they have a joint account, but they also have separate accounts. What are you comfortable with? What is your spouse comfortable with?
3. How much debt does your partner have? As painful as the discussion may be, you should be totally honest with your partner about how much debt you have. If you have a significant amount of debt, explain why. If your partner has a significant amount of debt, is he making an effort to pay it off or is he still charging with reckless abandonment? You will want to know if you are entering marriage with a free spender.
4. What is your partner’s credit score? While asking for her credit score may seem a bit cold, know that her credit score, as well as your own, will affect your marriage. My cousin had filed bankruptcy and had a very low credit score, while his fiancee had stellar credit. When they bought a house, she had to have the house entirely in her name because he wouldn’t have even qualified for the loan. When they got divorced, ownership of the house was a sticky point in their divorce negotiations.
5. What is acceptable free money spending? You and your partner will likely have free money to spend. How much are you allowed to spend before you check with your partner? My husband and I generally check with one another before we buy any purchase that isn’t in the budget, but most people find that too restrictive. You might agree that you will check with one another before you spend $100 or more on something, but you can spend under that amount without checking. Maybe you won’t even put a limit on spending. In one episode of Little People, Big World, the father, Matt, bought a new, expensive car without even consulting your wife. If you don’t want marital disputes, you probably don’t want to do this.
While you can’t fend off all money fights, you can help ensure you don’t divorce because of money issues if you openly discuss your financial beliefs and situations before you get married.
Did you discuss finances before marrying?
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