It feels tacky to talk about money and love in the same breath. We may worry about what happens if he cheats, or how we’ll handle kids… but money? What is there to talk about?
Just about everything, it turns out.
Discussing money gives you deep insights into each other’s motivations, values and patterns. And it heads off problems before they start.
Since 90% of divorces have money problems and arguments at the root, asking these questions now helps you create a happy marriage that will really last.
1. How do you feel about money?
Our attitudes are mainly formed when we’re children – for example, if you were raised in a house where money seemed to slip away, you may feel it’s something you can never control.
Try talking about how money makes you feel: How do you feel when cash is tight? What about when you have enough – does it excite you? And how much is “enough”?
If you have extra cash do you instinctively want to spend or save it? How do you feel about buying on credit? How much debt is too much for you to handle?
No answers are right or wrong – what you’re trying to discover are each other’s motivations and patterns.
If you discover that you’re an instinctive spendthrift marrying an instinctive saver, you’ve going to have to come up with a plan to manage this, or quarrels are inevitable.
2. How do you feel about budgeting?
We all know exactly what we earn, but many of us have no idea about our personal spending. We just get to the end of the month and it’s gone…or we have some left.
A personal budget helps you both see how much is coming in, and how much you can spend.
Make it easy on yourself by downloading a free budget planner; here’s one for Singapore.
3. Who will manage our money?
You may assume your spouse will handle family investments, savings and mortgages – and then both of you get a shock when it becomes obvious he thought you were doing it. And now no-one is keeping track of anything.
Decide who will manage joint savings and investment accounts, if you get them.
Who will keep track of weekly spending? Who will do research into family matters like insurance or investments? Who will hand legal areas like wills?
You can divide it up any way that makes sense to you both – as long as it’s clear to both of you.
4. Are we both going to work?
One of you? Both of you? Will you work part-time for a while when your kids are younger, but return to full-time when they reach a certain age?
These questions affect your lifestyle – and your family budget. Assuming you both work, what will happen if you have children? Who will stay home with them? Will you need someone to care for them on a part- or full-time basis?
What if one or both of you has children? What arrangements do you need to make? Are you comfortable having a live-in helper at home or would a part-timer cleaner be better?
You don’t need to make the final decisions right now – but at least discuss them.
5. How much debt do you each have?
By law, when you marry, what’s his is yours – and what’s yours is his. And that includes debts. So if he is carrying 20k credit card debt, his creditors can now legally chase you for the money.
Asking about debt is confronting, but look at it this way; if you can’t be honest about this, how much hope is there for your marriage?
Each partner needs to know how much debt the other has, and decide how you will work towards eliminating it.
6. If we both work, how will we handle household spending?
Inevitably one of you will earn more than the other. This can breed resentment when it comes to household bills; should one of you pay more? If not, how do you divide the bills up fairly?
Will you pool your salaries into one account and pay household expenses out of it? Or do you prefer to maintain separate accounts, plus open a joint one for household expenses?
How much will you contribute to that account? Should it be equal amounts, or a certain percentage of each salary?
7. How much personal spending money do we get each month?
You think you’re both saving hard for a holiday, then he comes home with a new laptop. That kind of surprise can lead to arguments.
The reality is that each of you need some money you can spend how you want – without having to account for it. And let’s be plain: you need this money whether you work or not.
You can spend on pointless hobbies, gifts, beauty treatments, high tea with friends, drinks after work – whatever, it’s up to you.
The key is to decide what is fair for each of you – and the actual amounts for each person can be different.
8. How much can I spend on big ticket items without telling you?
Set a limit on how much either of you can spend on big ticket items before consulting with each other. Can you buy a new smartTV without consulting him? What about a new phone?
If money is tight, the financial limit can be $50. For other couples it may be $500 or $1000. This question is about more than sticking to a budget – its about managing anxiety and resentment.
Not knowing what your spouse is spending until it’s too late can cause incredible anxiety. On the flip side, it’s no fun being quizzed mercilessly after every purchase. So you need to work out an amount you can both live with.
Remember, the goal is to help you live within your means – and minimize resentment.
9. How should we review our finances?
Money is not a “set it and forget it” situation. Jobs change, kids arrive, mortgage payments change – your needs adjust.
Most couples need to review their short-term finances every week, or at least once a month so they can discuss spending for the upcoming week. Experts also suggest an annual meeting so you can review more long-term investments like the mortgage and life insurance.
10. What are your long-term goals? Where do you see us living in the future?
Where do you see yourselves living in 10 years? Or 30 years? What are you doing about the retirement planning? It’s a long way away – and you can change your mind.
But even just talking about your short- and long-term goals helps you both create plans to acheive them. It shows you both that you’re in this together.
This story was first published on Cleo, offering an insider perspective on everything a twenty-something woman in Singapore wants or needs to know, CLEO Magazine is now available in both print and digital formats. Visit www.CLEO.com.sg to subscribe.