Deciding to commit to someone for the rest of your life is such an important decision. If you’re ready to walk down the aisle with that special someone haven’t yet discussed the following topics, now’s the time to talk about them. These issues not only have important effects on a relationship, they’re also linked by the common thread of finances. You shouldn’t assume that your partner can read your mind. Also, don’t assume that just because you’re compatible personality-wise that you’ll be compatible in how you handle your finances. Here are some financial topics to discuss before marriage.
People change their minds but I think it’s important to talk about whether the two of you want kids. Whether you have children the old-fashioned way or decide to adopt, your finances are going to be affected. That’s why it’s good to have a mutual understanding before you embark on a new life together.
It’s also important to talk about whether how your children will be raised. You need to talk about this because your differing views can breed resentment. The two of you may agree that one person should be a stay-at-home parent but it can be difficult to decide who’s the one that stays home. Or, if one person thinks you should both continue working while the other wants to stay at home, that can create conflict as well.
You need to talk about these topics so that you can go into marriage with a plan. Maybe you can explore work from home options so that you get the best of both worlds – you get the flexibility of working from home and experience every aspect of your child’s development.
An additional topic to talk about regarding your children is whether you will you pay for their college education. I’m of the belief that you should first save for your own retirement then save for your children’s education if you choose to. People have different feelings on this topic so you should talk about how you want to handle this.
Love is great and all but you really shouldn’t get married to someone without first learning whether they have any debt. If one partner has significantly more debt than the other, how will this impact your marriage? What is your mutual understanding in terms of how the debt will be handled?
It boggles my mind, but some couples do not talk about debt prior to marriage and it ends up causing marital stress. You need to talk about debt to get an understanding how to pay it off and what the expectations are for the partner who has less debt or no debt at all. Your honeymoon should not be the time and place for you first learn about each other’s debts.
Putting aside questions of fairness, the real issues are transparency and open communication. You can’t go into a marriage with significant debt and not tell your partner about it. Why start the marriage on a sour note? Be open with each other. When you get married, all aspects of your lives combine and debt is a part of that.
Your retirement years may seem far away but as with all things in life, it will be here before you know it. That’s why it’s beneficial to have a discussion about your vision for retirement while you still have the time to do something about it. I like to break the retirement talk into 3 parts: when, what, and how.
Some people really enjoy working and retirement is not a part of their vocabulary. That’s cool. For the rest of us, we yearn for the day when we can ditch the 9 to 5. While the traditional retirement age ranges from 62-67, some people are aiming high and want to retire in their 40s or even 30s. Retirement at a younger age is certainly possible but it does mean making certain sacrifices and therein lies the problem. Are you and your significant other on the same page about what you are and are not willing to give up?
The two of you should talk about what you will do in retirement. Is it going to cause a problem if one partner dreams of traveling around the world in retirement while the other partner has visions of retiring to a log cabin in the woods? Also, come up with Plan B. People and plans change. If what you’ve envisioned does not pan out, then what?
Now that you’ve talked about the when and what, you need to decide how to get there. How much do you need to live on during retirement and how do you save up that amount of money? Do you pursue traditional retirement accounts such as a 401K and IRA? Is real estate more of your thing? While you don’t need to have a plan set in stone, it’s good to talk about your goals and dreams to have a gauge of how you will accomplish them. Talking about retirement now gives you plenty of time to work together and establish a middle ground. If you realize at age 60 that you have completely opposite views on retirement, it can be more difficult to resolve your differences.
Taking Care of Aging Parents
I come from a culture where it’s expected that children take care of their aging parents. Not everyone shares this view. Also, my parents are of the baby boomer generation and they saved studiously during their working years. However, if you or your future spouse’s parents weren’t such diligent savers, then what? Are you willing to welcome them into your home to help them save on housing costs? Should they need to enter into a long-term care facility, will you help with the costs?
These are difficult questions and there are no easy answers. You don’t have to solve the problem in one day and it’s okay if you’re unable to find a solution at all. The key is that the two of you talk about these issues. Two heads are better than one. Your partner may have insightful ideas you hadn’t thought of before. Also, talking about the hard stuff in life can help bring you closer together and help you understand your partner better.
If you’re married or thinking about getting married, have you discussed any of these topics with your partner?