It’s wedding season.
All over the country, happy couples are getting ready to tie the knot. However, many of them, like me, haven’t discussed the nitty-gritty money issues of life.
Before getting married, my ex and I talked about credit and debt — and that was a good thing. We even set up rules for when to ask about big purchases. However, there were some important things we didn’t discuss before getting married.
If your wedding day is approaching, just knowing about your significant other’s debt isn’t enough. Here are some of the other money issues you should pay attention to:
1. Are Combined Finances Really the Best Bet?
Many couples assume that combining their finances is the best way to go. After all, they are combining lives, so finances should follow, right?
Not necessarily. There might be tax reasons to keep things separate, or you might have other concerns — especially if one or both of you are on a second marriage.
Talk about combing finances and decide if it really makes sense for your situation. Maybe it shouldn’t be the default setting on your marital finances.
Discuss the money issues surrounding combined finances and run the numbers. Maybe some sort of hybrid (some shared accounts and some separate accounts) makes more sense.
2. Prioritize Your Financial Goals
Before you marry, sit down and prioritize your financial goals. What do you care about most? What should you tackle first as a couple?
Not everyone agrees that you should pay off student loan debt ASAP. You might want to save up for a down payment on a home now and put off retirement savings while your partner might think that you should focus more on retirement savings and push back your home ownership timeline.
Being on the same page is important. You might also have to both compromise so you’re heading toward your overall goals. Have these discussions before you walk down the aisle.
3. Review Health Insurance Options
A lot has changed in recent years. You might not be able to just hop on your spouse’s insurance. This is one of those money issues where assumptions can really cause problems.
Evaluate your health insurance options. Look at the plans you both have and run the numbers. Does adding one of you to the other’s plan lead to huge expenses? Are you better off keeping the plans separate? Maybe one of you is self-employed. It might make sense to use the health exchange, rather than get on a spouse’s plan.
Look at your income, the options, and determine what is most likely to benefit you both in the long run. You’ll also need to consider which plan is more friendly for adding children — if that’s something you think you’ll do.
4. Consider a Pre-Nup
Today’s couples have been working longer and building up wealth before getting married. As a result, it can make sense consider a pre-nup. It’s one of those money issues that few people like to talk about, but it’s something that can protect you.
No one plans to get divorced when they marry, but if one or both of you have a lot of assets, or if you want to preserve some of your ability to acquire more wealth on your own after the marriage, a pre-nup can be a good move. You never know what’s going to happen. I was taken completely by surprise when my ex asked for a divorce after 13 1/2 years of marriage.
5. Talk about HOW You Use Your Money
The whole saver/spender dichotomy is talked about a lot. And there’s a good chance that you’ve had that talk with your spouse-to-be. However, one of the money issues that doesn’t always get as much play deals with how you use your money.
For example, my ex and I both agreed that saving for retirement was vital. So we made it a priority. However, our ideas of how to use our money in retirement differed. I thought it would be about downsizing and travel. He wanted a comfortable-sized house that would allow us to stay home more.
Needless to say, when we figured this out, and saw other differences in the way we used money, we ran into problems.
Before you marry, talk to your significant other about the things they find most important when they spend money. Get an idea of priorities to cut down on misunderstandings and unpleasant surprises.
Getting a handle on the money issues before going into a marriage can be important, allowing you to start off on the right foot and avoid financial fights later.