Understanding Your Partner(Financially) Before Marriage

Weddings are wonderful. The union of yourself and your soulmate is supposed to be one of the happiest moments in your life. However, it is a moment that could be quickly overshadowed by the newfound knowledge that your partner is terrible with their finances.

The best way to prevent ‘post-nuptial remorse’ over financial dramas, is to understand how your partner manages money before one of you pops the question. Hopefully, this article will help you gain some insight into the types of topics you should discuss with your partner. Here are six questions that you should ask yourself, and your potential husband or wife.

Are you a spender or a saver?

The first topic worth covering includes a self-evaluation, as well as a conversation with your partner. What are your personalities like, concerning money? Are you big savers or big spenders? Ideally, you both prioritise saving and are working towards joint and individual financial goals such as a house or a trip away. Your saving and spending habits will, usually, cater to your stage of life.

Issues arise, however, when one or both of you prefer to spend your paychecks, rather than save them. It can also be a problem if you or your partner can be labelled a ‘cheapskate’. Hoarding cash for no reason other than to have it sitting in an account can, sometimes, be just as unhealthy. There is a healthy sweet spot you should look for when discussing your finances. But keep in mind habits usually can’t be changed overnight. The best thing you can do is have a conversation and determine each other’s money personalities so that you share a wavelength in future.

Do you struggle with debt?

The only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes; unfortunately, taxes and debt can be a plague on your relationship. Understand what financial baggage your partner is carrying. It can be embarrassing for some people to discuss, so ensure you remain compassionate. Most people are in some debt, whether to student loans, mortgages, or more sinister issues such as a gambling problem. Don’t shy away from this conversation; air out that dirty laundry.

It may be unwise to give your partner financial advice on how to fix their problems unless you are a financial counsellor by profession. So, instead, identify where any issues arise. It may be smart to repair what you can before marriage so that you can start the next chapter of your life smoothly. However, debts such as mortgages and unhealthy credit scores may not be a simple fix. Instead, prioritise smaller issues, such as consoling your credit card debt, or taking the steps towards breaking a gambling addiction.

Debt can be stressful; money troubles may weaken the foundations of a marriage. Give your relationship the best headstart possible by ironing out some of these wrinkles sooner rather than later. Solidify your foundations.

What’s your job status?

In an ideal world, both partners are financially independent, only choosing to mingle their finances because they are comfortable and trusting of each other and themselves. However, it is not always a perfect world. Accidents and other unfortunate events, such as injury and termination, can happen, which may leave one partner relying on the other. Before entering a marriage, you should ask yourself whether you can allow your partner to lean on you in times of difficulty, financially, as well as whether you could depend on your partner if roles are reversed.

If you foresee a future power-play dynamic in the cards, it may be worth questioning if a potential union will create the right environment for you. Situations where the partner earning the income dictates the spending priorities can be unhealthy. The same also applies to cases where your (unemployed) spouse is spending your earnings on whatever they like, without consulting you first.

If you or your spouse is financially dependent on the other party, it may be worth mapping out the steps towards correcting this, before it becomes a potentially toxic environment.

Do you plan on having children?

Just in case your mother or your grandma hasn’t already asked the question enough, its time to ask it again:

“Will you have children?”

Children are a blessing and a curse; a curse in the sense that children are not cheap. Raising two children can cost approximately $340 a week, which quickly becomes seventeen grand a year. Hence, if you both love the idea of having children of your own, you need to be financially secure.

Develop your savings as best as you can. If you or your partner wants kids, it is a topic that needs to be pondered now, not when the pregnancy test reads positive. We can’t pretend mistakes don’t happen either. If you look at your partner and see no potential to support a possible happy accident, marrying them may not be the right decision. Change is possible, as long as your goals are aligned.

Should we establish joint accounts?

A joint account allows you and your partner to spend from the same account. This may mean you combine all or part of your earnings. Alternatively, you could have joint savings accounts that you don’t touch, to ensure you have emergency money for the future. This savings account could also be like a money jar, where you put your change towards future goals.

Some of the benefits of establishing a joint account with your partner include

  • Fewer bank fees – if you’re looking for a way to cut back on some of your costs, account combination could be a valid option for you and your partner.
  • Simplicity when paying for shared costs – rather than paying for the groceries yourself, for example, and having to ask your partner to pay you back their half, you can instead take money from your shared account.
  • You both oversee the account – joint accounts allow both partners to view the account, meaning power-play dynamics can be removed from the equation

With this being said, joint accounts do have disadvantages, including:

  • Access to everything – shared access does run the risk of allowing a partner to completely deplete an account without requiring permission. The best way to avoid this is to enter an account that requires the signatures of both account holders for a transaction to progress.
  • Joint debt responsibility – sharing an account also means sharing any debt that comes with it. If your partner does not manage their funds well, it may be best not to allow them to also put you in debt. Debt may be individual before a marriage, but once you’re hitched it becomes a joint responsibility.

Depending on the bank you go with, the accounts terms will differ.

Should we consider a prenup?

Nobody wants to consider divorce before the marriage has even happened, but if you truly love your partner despite their money management skills, a prenup could be the way to go. A prenuptial agreement is the legal decision to outline which property and assets will remain with each partner upon a possible divorce. As with everything, there are pros and cons of a prenup, however, approaching the idea doesn’t have to be offensive.

If your partner is offended by the possibility of entering such an agreement, paint it in the best light possible. Inform them that it means financial empowerment for both parties. That it can offer peace of mind, should anything happen, and may save you both some stress. Most importantly, be honest with them and how you feel. Your honesty may even prompt your partner into changing some of their ways.

To conclude

Neither you nor your partner is perfect. And they do say love trumps everything. So this article is by no means telling you to drop your partner if they like shoe shopping. Instead, seek to understand each other’s goals and habits. All that is being suggested here is that you sit down and look to learn from each other before taking the big step that is marriage.

If you have things you need to work on, create some plans to conquer them. Align your interests and get the required help. Life will throw many things at you in the future, cross some of the money troubles off life’s list and set yourself up for the future.