Everyone knows that money is a touchy subject, and especially so in marriage. Some couples would rather talk about their sex life than about their money! As with most things in life, being open and honest with each other is the best way to face and overcome challenges together. If you can start developing good money management habits right from the start, even before you are actually married, it will stand you in good stead for the years ahead.
These eight key questions will give you a head start in thinking about managing your marriage finances.
1. Do we work as a team?
This important question applies not only to your finances but also to every area of your marriage relationship. You need to think about whether you will keep separate accounts, or pool all your finances. If you choose to have separate accounts, will you each be responsible for certain expenses, and will you be transparent about your balances? Do you still have a mentality of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, or do you think in terms of ‘ours.’ Competitiveness can be a real obstacle to working as a team. If you feel that somehow you have to compete and constantly prove yourself to your mate, it will prevent you from seeing what is best for both of you together.
2. What debt do we have?
The big “D” word can be extremely difficult to cope with, especially if you are newly married. Firstly you need to be completely honest about all your outstanding debts. Don’t deny or brush aside the ones you can’t face as they will only grow and make things worse in the end. Face your debts together and if necessary get help in working out a repayment plan. Debt counselling is widely available and there is a way forward in every situation. Once you are able to reach a debt-free status, do everything you can as a couple to stay out of debt as much as possible.
3. Do we plan to have children?
This is a question you will probably have discussed at an early stage when you realized that your relationship was serious. It is important that you reach an agreement and understanding where having children is concerned. Besides all the blessings of starting a family, of course there are extra expenses which can place a strain on the marriage finances. As children grow over the years, so do the expenses tend to grow, especially with regard to education costs. These expenses need to be discussed and taken into account as you plan your family together.
4. What are our financial goals?
One of the benefits of sharing finances in marriage is that you can set your financial goals together. Are you planning to live in the same house or apartment for the rest of your lives, or would you like to build or buy your own place? Would you like to move to the countryside, or the seaside? Maybe you want to spend your later years travelling the world together. Or perhaps you would like to open up your own business. If you are already in a good job, what potential promotion opportunities do you foresee? It is good to discuss these questions regularly and re-evaluate your financial goals from time to time, as the seasons of your life progress.
5. How will we set up our budget?
Setting up a marriage budget can be a great opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level. As you thrash out the nitty-gritty of your monthly, weekly and daily expenses, you can decide together what is essential, what is important and what is not so important or even disposable. If you have never kept a budget before, this is a great time to start. It will no doubt be a learning curve for both of you and give you a set of boundaries which helps to give you peace of mind, knowing you will make it financially, if you stay within the budget you have agreed on together.
6. What expenses can we expect from extended family?
Depending on your individual family circumstances, you may need to consider some expenses related to your extended family. Do you have aging parents who need help, or perhaps your parents may even need to move in with you at some stage. Or perhaps one of your spouse’s siblings is going through a tough time; getting divorced, out of work, or facing an addiction. Of course you would like to help wherever you can, so this needs to be discussed carefully, making sure that both of you are on the same page when it comes to when and how much you are going to help.
7. Do we have an emergency or retirement fund?
When you are busy living your life day to day in the present, it can be easy to forget about the future. However, making wise financial choices in your marriage involves thinking and planning ahead with your spouse. You may like to discuss setting up an emergency fund for those unexpected expenses which crop up from time to time, like vehicle repairs, or when your washing machine dies. Then of course there’s retirement. Besides the pension fund you may be getting from your work, you might like to set aside a little extra for those dreams you have been keeping for your retirement days.
8. Are we going to tithe?
Tithing is one of those good habits which help to keep us from becoming totally self-centred and selfish. Giving at least ten percent of your income to your church or charity of your choice, gives you a certain sense of satisfaction which comes from knowing that you have in some way given a lift to someone else’s burden. Perhaps you feel you can’t afford a tithe, but you can still afford to give in kind, whether it’s your time, or generous hospitality. Both of you should be in agreement about this and be able to give willingly and cheerfully. They say, no one is ever too poor to give, and no one is ever so rich that they don’t need anything in life.