“Will you marry me?” For a lot of people that is the most important question that comes to mind when thinking about marriage. But according to Fox Business, money experts say there are even more pressing issues at hand leading up to the big day, and they all concern finances.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, couples are getting married later in life with the average age at their first marriage being 28.7 for men and 26.5 for women. Just because folks are a bit older doesn’t mean they are making smarter decisions before tying the knot.
Often times questions or concerns about finances come up but it seems that young couples always figure that they will just deal with it later. The author of “What To Do Before You Say “I Do”, Susan Ziggy responds to that thinking by asking “why do you think you can handle these questions without knowing the basics?”
Ziggy says that the three big things that come up in a divorce are children, cheating and finances. She goes on to give the advice that “it’s important to put all debt and money issues on the table before deciding on your future together.”
The four big questions that Ziggy says all couples considering marriage should talk about are:
— Are you a saver or a spender? The way a person looks at money is an essential part of the marriage equation, says Ziggy.
“If a person is a spender, they will go out and overspend without looking at the budget,” she says. “I hear people say, ‘I will pay it off with my bonus, or before I retire,’ and that can lead to some really bad feelings when couples don’t sit down and say how much they want to save, or what they need per week.”
If a person is financially irresponsible in their single life you can be assured that in most cases they will be the same way when married. It is important to be on the same page when it comes to making and sticking to a family budget
— Did you have to deal with finances growing up, or did your parents take care of everything? Ziggy goes on to say that “An individual’s childhood experiences with finances will impact how he or she behaves as an adult” A good example of this is if one partner never had a job as a teen, or a savings account, he or she may be less responsible with cash.
You have to figure that a person who has always had things given to them will surely have trouble understanding finances. Ziggy gives a good example that “If you give someone $2 they will want to spend $1.99 of it, if they don’t know how to handle money,” she goes on to say “You want [one partner] to be responsible.”
Some good advice is that if there is one partner that makes more than the other, the bills should take this difference into account. She doesn’t suggest that there has to be a 50-50 split but it should be “equitable”.
— How much debt are you coming into the relationship with? College debt, credit card debt, mortgages and car loans all need to be discussed pre-marriage, says Ziggy.
“Let your partner see your mortgage book and financial statements ahead of time,” she says. “Also know that if he or she has bad credit that may impact you later if you want to buy a house together, for example.”
While your credit doesn’t technically “mix” when you get married, unless you have joint accounts”, your spouse’s credit will definitely affect your ability as a couple to obtain financing. There’s a good chance that you would have trouble putting everything in only one spouse’s name when you would need the income of both of you to qualify for any type of major financing.
— Who is responsible for the debts you incur prior to your marriage? You must have a discussion about who will be responsible for the debts that are brought into the new relationship. Some couples find that it works for them to just pool their money and pay whatever bills are there, others find that this just doesn’t work and each person needs to be responsible for their prior debts.
“If one person has $30,000 in college loans, talk about who will be paying for that,” she says. “If one partner makes 30% more, maybe he or she will take on some of that debt. Talk about it so there are no surprises, and you know your roles.”