Studies show that couples argue most about finances. Once we started thinking seriously about marriage, it seemed wise to compare our attitudes and thoughts related to money. Individually, we were the product of long-established habits and we had each developed some financial security over the years. We spent an afternoon comparing notes about our finances because we knew compatibility in finances was going to be important after we were a couple.
As it turns out, we are both very conservative with our money – making us quite compatible.
Once we were married, we set up his, her, and our accounts with the household budget coming from “our” money. During the first year we were together, we kept every receipt (not a lot of fun, we’ll admit) so that we could see exactly how our money was being spent. This baseline has helped us manage and project our expenses since then.
Annually, we sit down together and revisit our financial needs and savings goals for the coming year and for the longer-term. This allows us both to be comfortable with the progress we are making and the financial goals we are achieving – and discuss any large expenses or investments for the coming year.
Young couples, especially, need to be sure that they are compatible with their partners’ financial personalities. Since most financial habits are based on what you’ve observed your parents doing and what you have been doing as a young adult, they are well-established by your early 20s.
If you are a young couple considering a long-term partnership (marriage or otherwise), consider working through these 30 questions separately and then compare your answers with your partner’s responses. It will be an afternoon of insightful learning and understanding about yourself and your partner.
You may find some differences that ought to be resolved right up front – and some topics that need to be revisited at a later date.
Being on the same page about finances will allow you to enjoy a life that focuses on your needs and goals and will help you achieve them smartly. Good luck!
Discussions about Your Family History of Financial Management
- Describe how your parents handled their finances. Were you a part of the discussion?
- Did you get an allowance when you were growing up? At what age did it start? How much did you get? What were you expected to pay for with this money? Were you encouraged to save? When did you have your first bank account? Who helped you set this up?
- When did you get your first paying job outside the home? Describe it.
- Have you ever borrowed from or loaned to a friend or family member? How much? For what? How did the repayment of that loan go? Are there balances that are still owed?
Discussions about Your Current Financial Habits
- Do you routinely save? Why? Why not?
- Do you consider yourself a spender or a saver?
- Do you always pay off your credit cards each month? Why? Why not?
- What kinds of insurance coverage do you have.
- What is your current salary? Bonuses?
- What was your last year’s taxable income? Who does your tax returns?
- How much money do you owe? To whom? For what?
- Are you an impulse buyer? What kinds of things do you buy on impulse?
- What are your personal hobbies and what do they cost each year?
- What are your approximate annual charitable and religious contributions?
- Approximately how much do you spend on gifts holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions each year?
- How much money have you put away for retirement?
- What is your financial net worth (assets minus liabilities)?
Discussions about your Expected Future and Their Financial Implications
- What is your estimate of your combined monthly income as a couple?
- What is your estimate of your combined expenses on a monthly (or annual) basis?
- Should we have his, her, and/or our bank accounts? Why? Why not?
- We both need to agree on purchases over what amount?
- How often do you think we should buy a new car? Used or New?
- Do you expect to participate financially in the care of a parent or sibling or other relative?
- Do you think one or the other of us is the “primary bread winner”?
- If we have children, do you think one of us should stay home to take care of them? Who will do that? Should we take turns?
- If we have children, will we pay for their college educations? What will that cost?
- At what age do you expect you will stop working? Will we plan to have purchased and paid off the mortgage on our home before we retire?
- Should we buy long term health care insurance?
- How often should we sit down and discuss our finances?
About the authors:
Alyson Ball is the President of BoardsThatExcel.com which promotes successful nonprofit organizations by developing corporate governance and management strategies. She is also a consultant to international development organizations, specializing in micro-finance. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School.
John Ball retired from the Department of Commerce. He is active in emergency management and disaster-preparedness for his community. John is a master gardener, hunter, falconer, and conservationist.
John and Alyson Ball live in central Virginia.