According to a recent GOBankingRates survey, 22 percent of Americans admit to lying to a partner about money. Money is a difficult subject to discuss in the best of times, so waiting until the worst of times is a recipe for disaster. Learning from the wisdom of other married couples, here are the money questions I plan to ask my partner before saying “I do.”
How Much Do You Make? How Much Do You Owe?
These are vital questions to ask a future spouse, and I’m not alone in thinking this. The survey revealed that, on average, nearly 46 percent of individuals ages 18 to 34 discussed topics like their partner’s debt and income compared to 36 percent of married couples over age 45. This is an encouraging sign because it means that a new generation is seeing the value of being transparent about money with their partner. Perhaps this is partially why millennials are causing the divorce rate to plummet.
How Do You Spend Money? Are You Budgeting?
The two leading money topics married couples wish they discussed before their vows were how their household would budget their finances (25 percent) and their partner’s spending habits (23 percent). Further, after getting married, the leading financial worry is, “my partner spending beyond our means” (19 percent). This is why I hope to observe, report and openly discuss these things before walking down the aisle. The goal is to neutralize the topic of money early on so that it becomes like any other mundane topic we might discuss in the home between now and forever.
Are You Investing?
Investing is one of the other money topics millennials are more comfortable talking about than Gen Xers. This news is perhaps unsurprising, as apps like Robinhood, Stash and Acorns allow us to “micro-invest” with a tap of a button on our phones. Investing is more accessible than ever, so talks about it should be too. Married couples have to be aligned on where and how they’re saving money.
Are You Willing to Keep Learning About Money Together?
Despite the fact that four in 10 respondents wish they had learned more about money in school, our schools still have not embraced teaching personal finance. According to the Council for Economic Education, as of 2018, only 17 states require students to take a personal finance class before graduation. It is assumed that money management will be taught in the home, but unless your parents work in finance, the odds that you ever had a meaningful talk about the birds, the bees and the 401(k)s is probably highly unlikely. Like many of you, I had to figure out my finances through trial and a whole lot of errors.
Fortunately, I found there are great books hiding all the best money secrets in plain sight. While my personal favorite is still the financial classic “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, there are so many great money and investment books to choose from. I want to make sure that my wife is willing to learn and grow in our financial journey. In fact, I plan to choose a book that my partner and I might both enjoy, then commit to discussing, understanding and, most importantly, practicing the money lessons we learn together.
Are You Passionate About Instilling Good Money Habits in Our Future Kids?
When appropriate, my future spouse and I can commit to passing all that we’ve learned on to our children. This is how I hope to break the cycle of financial illiteracy and build a family legacy that charts our own money map, rather than allowing the randomness of life to dictate our financial path. We’ve already made a lifetime commitment to each other; adding money mastery to our household list seems like another worthy investment.
Click through to read about how one father is teaching his kids to be financially responsible.
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Erica Corbin contributed to the reporting for this article.