Being on the same page with money is essential to any peaceful marriage. Financial trouble and financial differences lead to stress, arguments, and possibly to sneaking purchases (i.e., loss of trust). Whether or not you believe there is an absolute right and wrong way to approach money, it is important that you and your future spouse agree on how money should be managed.
So, head to your local coffee shop, grab your favorite caffeinated beverage, and discuss these money questions with each other. There is a good chance this list will spark other questions, so you can have a thorough financial discussion! Money management may not be a favorite topic, but this is one of the most important discussions a couple can have before getting engaged!
- When, if ever, is it okay to go into debt? “I do not care how much it costs! We only live once and I want to go on that cruise!” “We cannot afford it. We can barely afford rent and you want to go on vacation?” “How will you feel if we get to the end of our lives and we have never done anything?” “I will feel fine as long as we are not up to our ears in debt!” Some believe debt is never an option. Others believe it is only an option for home purchases or maybe car purchases. And then, there are people who believe in living for the moment and paying the debt later. If someone who does not believe in frivolous debt marries someone who considers a yearly vacation a necessity and they are not looking to have a substantial income to start, they may be in for some major blowouts! ~smile~
- Do you live on a budget? Are you planning to live on a budget once you are married? If you are a budget fanatic and you discover your sweetie does not have a budget, I would not consider that an automatic deal-breaker. ~smile~ Just because he or she does not currently live on a cash flow plan does not mean he or she is not willing to move in that direction. Perhaps the two biggest budget questions that need to be answered are, “Do you see the merits of living on a budget?” and “Are you willing to stick to one if we get married?” All couples should learn to live on a personal budget before getting married. Not only is it terrific practice for married life, but it is a necessary life skill everyone should possess – married or not.
- What are your thoughts on giving children an allowance? When I was growing up, allowance seemed like a given. However, if I did not do my chores, I did not get my allowance; so, in reality my allowance was more like a mini-paycheck versus an entitlement. Teaching your children how to handle money should be a significant aspect of your parenting. Are you and your sweetheart in agreement about how money will be dispensed to children you will have? Will you give them money if they just ask for it? Will you give them a certain amount each week? Will you pay them for the completion of chores? Will chores be required, but extra jobs pay money? Will you cover field trips, prom dresses, and other growing up expenses, or will they be required to pay some or all of those costs? Will you purchase a car for them, will they have to purchase it, or will you work out a deal? All good questions to work through.
- How do you feel about the phrase, “I deserve…”? Dave Ramsey says, “You do not deserve anything unless you can pay for it.” Some others would wholeheartedly disagree. Those who live by the phrase, “I deserve…” will spend money much differently than those who do not. If you feel entitled to something for whatever reason, you will justify buying that thing. If you and your future spouse are not in agreement about how the phrase, “I deserve…,” will fit into your marriage, fur will fly. “What is this $300 purchase on our bank statement?” “I had an awful day and I needed a pick-me-up. I needed a new purse anyway!” And, it is certainly not just the ladies. ~smile~ “Five rounds of golf? You played golf five times this month?! We are saving for a car that does not break down every other day and you are playing golf!?!?”
- How did your parents handle money? How we grow up is what we consider “normal” to be. If we saw money thrown around, that is normal. If we saw money hoarded, that is normal. If we saw money shot out of a cannon every Fourth of July, then that is normal (well, maybe ~smile~). Our parents do a lot to shape our view of money. However, we do not always adopt their financial philosophies once we reach adulthood. Sometimes, people emerge from financially strict homes and go hog wild! “I am going to enjoy my life! No more scrimping!” And, many people who grew up in constant financial turmoil emerge with a determination to be responsible stewards of their money. It is beneficial to know your sweetheart’s financial heritage, but do not base your decision to marry on his or her parents’ successes or failures. What your sweetie is taking away from their money management lessons is what is important.
- Do you buy new or used cars? The difference between financial freedom and financial frustration can be as simple as your car buying philosophy – brand new or reliable used. If you think that is bogus, watch this paradigm shifting video! If you are a believer in buying reliable used cars, but your spouse-to-be loves that new car smell, look out! People get emotional about their cars! ~smile~
- How important is tithing to you? Studies have indicated that only 3% of Christians tithe regularly (i.e., give 10% of their income to the church). This percentage is staggering to me. Though we could argue that tithing is an Old Testament concept and we are living in a New Testament era, I still think it is a faith-building, trust-inspiring discipline to financially support one’s local church. Do you and your sweetie agree that tithing (or, even, giving) is important? If so, do you agree on how to tithe – that is, the traditional understanding of 10%? More? Less? If you and your sweetheart disagree on whether or not to tithe at all, that could certainly be a deal breaking concern. At that point, you are dealing with a difference in your Christian beliefs and not only money.
We hope these questions spark a lively conversation! Talk about money. Talk. Talk. Talk. Observe each other’s monetary habits. Read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey together; and, once you are engaged, go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at a local church. Engaged and married couples can attend the class as one unit and only pay for one kit! ~smile~
Money fights and money problems are factors in so many divorces. Start off on the right foot and save yourself hours of fights and pointless heartache!
Are you and your sweetie in agreement about how to handle money?