If you’re newly engaged, the idea of your marriage not working out may be unfathomable. The Institute of Divorce Financial Analysts cited money issues as the leading cause of 22% of divorces, right after infidelity (25%) and basic incompatibility (43%). So, how do you set your marriage up for success? Talking through some of the biggest financial hurdles prior to a time of conflict can give you tools to work through disagreements later. Here are six financial questions every newly engaged couple should discuss.

How Do You Feel About Debt?

Debt can be a tool for wealth creation or wealth destruction. By the time you are engaged, you may or may not know how much debt your partner has but it’s important to understand how they feel about debt. Some potential red flags or behaviors you would want to look at critically would be things like carrying a very high credit card balance or taking on extremely high interest debt like payday loans. Some debts, like mortgages or business loans, allow a person to leverage assets to get more out of their money.

Understanding how your partner feels about debt is also critical because you may have very different feelings. If you are extremely debt averse and your partner has a high degree of leverage and need for debt servicing, it may be important to find a middle ground, maintain separate assets, or put a prenuptial agreement in place to make you more comfortable.

How Do You See Us Dividing Financial Responsibilities?

Discussing division of financial responsibilities is essential to making sure an arrangement makes sense for both partners. Income levels may be a consideration here, especially when one partner has a much higher income than the other. It’s important to rank priorities, like paying bills, housing expenses, and investing toward future financial goals. Even if responsibilities do get divided, it’s key to stay proactive and discuss factors affecting your financial picture frequently.

I recently spoke with a man going through a divorce who was extremely high income during his peak earning years but recently decided to scale back. Over the years, his spouse managed bills, shopping, and investments, including a variety of real estate holdings that were not generating income. That spending ended up being an astronomical cost per month and one that the previously high earning spouse wasn’t necessarily on board with, which was a contributing factor leading to divorce.

Would You Want To Merge Assets Or Keep Things Separate?

Merging all assets is not a requirement of marriage, and it’s good to understand if it’s a priority to your partner or not. I’ve seen numerous examples of both methods working, but if assets are separate, it’s essential to understand how that plays into the financial responsibilities that have been laid out. There are instances where I’ve seen married couples fall behind on their financial goals because they have no idea what each spouse’s financial picture looks like.

What Is Your Philosophy About The Balance Of Saving Versus Lifestyle Today?

This also goes hand-in-hand with financial responsibilities. It’s important to understand where your partner’s priorities lie, while being able to maintain the balance of financial responsibilities in a relationship. Disagreement on this point can lead to a financial imbalance.

What Do You Imagine Retirement Looking Like?

Some people cannot imagine retiring and picture themselves working until they die. Others would like to retire as soon as humanly possible. Figuring out what that timing looks like between the two of you is essential. I’ve met people who have retired before their working spouse and that can lead to resentment, especially if the working spouse is financially supporting the retired spouse.

Some also imagine an entirely different life from their working life; things like starting a farm, moving to another country, and embracing RV life are not uncommon to hear. In those instances, it may be more important to get on the same page about when you’d like to retire in order to carry those goals out together.

How Did Your Family Approach Money When You Were Growing Up?

Family attitudes toward finances impact our experiences with money. So, understanding your partner’s upbringing can help you understand why they hold specific money beliefs.

Conclusion

Choosing to get married is a huge step, one that involves pulling two separate lives and separate histories together. Understanding your differences and setting out expectations and priorities around money are key elements in ensuring a happy and lasting marriage.

This informational and educational article does not offer or constitute and should not be relied upon as tax or financial advice. Your unique needs, goals and circumstances require the individualized attention of your own tax and financial professionals whose advice and services will prevail over any information provided in this article. Equitable Advisors, LLC and its associates and affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice or services and are not affiliated with Bank of America. Equitable Advisors, LLC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI and TN) and its affiliates do not endorse, approve or make any representations as to the accuracy, completeness or appropriateness of any part of any content linked to from this article.

Cicely Jones (CA Insurance Lic. #: 0K81625) offers securities through Equitable Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA, SIPC (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI & TN) and offers annuity and insurance products through Equitable Network, LLC, which conducts business in California as Equitable Network Insurance Agency of California, LLC). Financial Professionals may transact business and/or respond to inquiries only in state(s) in which they are properly qualified. Any compensation that Ms. Jones may receive for the publication of this article is earned separate from, and entirely outside of her capacities with, Equitable Advisors, LLC and Equitable Network, LLC (Equitable Network Insurance Agency of California, LLC). AGE-6452045.1 (3/24)(Exp. 3/26)

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