Planning a wedding and getting married is an exciting time: There are a number of decisions to make, and you are getting ready to spend your life with someone. This should be a happy time for you and your partner. Still, as fun as it is to focus on all the planning and romance in getting engaged and planning to be married, there are some more difficult issues you need to tackle.
There are many financial decisions that you should make — or at least discuss – before you get married. Once you walk down the aisle, if you haven’t discussed these issues, you may be blindsided if you find out that your partner feels differently than you do about an important financial issue. Instead of waiting, take the time now to make these five important financial decisions with your partner.
1. Determine if you want children
We’re heading right for one of the most important decisions you will ever make, and there’s no use in sugar coating it. If you don’t have kids already and you haven’t discussed raising children with your future spouse, now is the time. Don’t assume that you are on the same page, even if you discussed it a while back. The good thing is that like every decision on this list, you can mutually change your mind later, but you do need to have the conversation now. In addition to being a huge time and emotional commitment, children are a financial commitment, too, so you need to come to an agreement with your partner.
There are several pros and cons to having children, including the lifelong bond you will form with your kids and the ability to influence another person. However, you may find that having children leaves you in a state of constant exhaustion, and you will definitely find that having kids will change and affect your relationship with your partner.
2. Determine your savings goals
Financial disagreements have the power to negatively affect a relationship, so it’s best to talk about money before you get married. Make sure that you both disclose your debt ahead of time (unless you agree it isn’t necessary), and come up with a plan for how you are going to pay off that debt. It’s absolutely vital that you agree on savings goals. Figure out if you want to pay down debt first, how much you need to save for retirement, and what other savings you want to focus on. If possible, look at your combined assets and debt, agree on a budget, and come up with a specific amount now that you can save each month.
3. Determine your work goals
In addition to figuring out whether you want kids anytime soon and what your savings goals are, you also should talk about your work goals. If you currently work 40 hours per week but your dream is to be a supervisor and you know that you might be required to work many more hours, then you need to tell your partner that. You also need to share if you are hoping to get a promotion or move to a different location.
Usually people in a committed relationship make decisions like these together, and it would be unfair of you or your partner not to discuss your ambitions ahead of time. You also need to see how set each of you are on advancing in your own career. You may find that neither of you is willing to give up a job to move for the other person’s career, or to stay at home with kids.
4. Determine whether you want to rent or buy
Again, you can always change your mind later, but you should figure out whether you plan to rent or buy a home, at least in terms of the first few years of your marriage. Owning a home can be a great investment, but it isn’t the right decision for everyone. If one of you wants to buy and one of you wants to rent, you will need to figure out a timeline and concrete reasons for either purchasing a home or waiting until later (or never). There are many advantages to both renting and buying.
Some factors to consider if you know where you might buy include housing prices, the length you plan to stay, and the details of your potential mortgage, among other details.
5. Determine who will manage the money
If you agree about where your money should go and what you will put toward savings, you are off to a good start. However, you also need to figure out who will handle the money that comes in. If you have both paid bills separately in the past and had separate accounts, you need to figure out how you will pay for things from now on. Determine how you are going to pay bills and whether you will have joint or separate accounts. You also need to figure out if one person is going to manage the checkbook, be responsible for keeping track of expenses and the budget, and so on. You also should have a plan for when you can each spend discretionary money and when you need to discuss purchases together.
It’s also a good idea to talk in detail about your retirement dreams, including when you want to retire and where. It’s also important to discuss which assets you are each bringing into your marriage, and whether you want to get a prenuptial. The prenup conversation is often awkward, but it’s am important issue to consider, especially if one of you is coming into the marriage with a lot of money or a lot of debt.