Marriage can be a wonderful thing. My life has been greatly blessed by the awesome woman God brought into my life approximately 15 years ago. Proverbs tells us:
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. Proverbs 31:10-11 NLT
As wonderful as marriage can be however, it can be disastrous when the husband and wife are not on the same page in key areas. One of the most important of these areas is finances. More than half of all of failed marriages site money fights as one of the major reasons.
What is your family background?
Did you grow up in a family that was well off? Or did your family struggle to make ends meet? How does that impact your expectations of the lifestyle you hope to live?
Are you a saver or a spender?
Some people are just naturally savers. (Some might call them tightwads.) Others are more naturally spenders. They are likely to get paid on Friday and be broke by Saturday night.
Where do you and your fiance fit on the scale from saver to spender? If you find yourselves on opposite ends of the spectrum here you need to spend some time discussing how you will spend your money, as this can be very divisive. The saver will get frustrated because the spender spends everything and the spender will get frustrated because they think the saver needs to lighten up and have some fun.
How do you feel about debt?
Is debt a tool to be used or a something to be avoided at all costs? Do you use credit cards for day-to-day purchases? Or do you only buy if you have cash? If you currently have debts how aggressively do you plan to pay them off when married?
How important is a budget?
Do you currently live on a budget? Have you ever lived on a budget? Is the budget set in stone never to be deviated from? Or do you have trouble even spelling the “B” word?
Does status matter?
How important is it to you to “keep up with the Jones”? Are you happy only if you are driving a new car? Or would you rather be driving a 10-year-old paid off vehicle? What kind of neighborhood do you want to live in? Do you want your children to attend only private schools?
Do you handle financial matters with integrity?
How do you feel about things like taxes? Are you careful to follow the rules as closely as possible? Or do you think what the IRS doesn’t know won’t hurt them? Is “borrowing some supplies” from the office no big deal? Or do you consider that stealing?
How do you feel about giving?
Are you a naturally generous person? Or do you find giving difficult? If you are Christians do you currently tithe on your incomes? Do you have particular charities that you regularly give to and would want to continue to support?
How much is enough?
Are you satisfied working a lower paying job because it is work you love? Or will nothing less than that corner office with a view satisfy you? How important is work? Are 60 hour weeks common to achieve your goals? What sacrifices do you consider acceptable to achieve your dreams?
Are you impulsive or a planner?
How do you approach buying decisions? Are you an impulsive spender who buys the first thing you see? Or are you a planner who looks at all the models, researches the best deals, and takes weeks to come to a decision?
Will you combine accounts after marriage?
Do you plan to have one account after marriage? Or do you plan to have “his, hers and ours” accounts?
How tolerant are you to risk?
Do you see anything more than a CD as scary? Or are you comfortable committing your life savings to that stock your cousin Lenny’s barber guaranteed would be a winner?
While not a question per se, when the relationship becomes serious it would be wise to exchange credit reports. Are there any items you are surprised by? Debts you were unaware of?
Better to sort these out before getting married
Certainly it is not necessary for your answers to match 100% on every category. Financial teacher Larry Burkett used to say that if both spouses are absolutely identical then one of you is not needed. But it is very important for you to talk through these issues before marriage. Where you differ, spend some time understanding how you will be able to work together after marriage. Ideally, these questions and discussions should be included as part of your pre-marriage counseling.
I would highly recommend that anyone planning marriage should attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. You may or may not agree with everything Dave teaches. That is fine. But one of the major benefits of attending this class as a couple is it will give you a framework to talk through many of these issues.
A good marriage is a wonderful thing, but many of these questions are the very issues that tear marriages apart. For your sake and for that of your fiance, spend some time talking through these issues. It would be far better to discover issues in these areas before tying the knot as opposed to living through the heart-break of divorce.