15 ways to ruin your financial future: Don't discuss money with your betrothed

I married for love, not money, but I wished I had asked my husband more questions about the latter before we tied the knot. It wasn't until after the wedding that I learned about his six-figure student loans and credit-card balance of $15,000. For someone who prides herself on paying off her card balance every month, it was a shocker.

Based on the fights we've had, I can easily believe the stats showing most divorces are caused by money battles. If you're not seeing eye-to-eye on money matters, not only could your marriage go down the tubes, so could your own financial future. That's why it's so important, whether you're engaged or already married, to have the "money talk."

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It's best to have it in a neutral setting and at a time when there's no particular money issue at hand -- I took him on a weekend camping trip and brought a bottle of wine. Here are some good questions to ask each other:

* Where do you see us in five, 10, 20 years?
* What are your assets and liabilities?
* What does your credit report look like?
* How should we tackle debt?
* Should we keep our finances separate, or should we combine all or some of them?
* How will we handle spending decisions? Should we talk daily, weekly, or have a monthly sitdown?
* Who should be the primary bill-payer, and who should prepare the taxes?
* What's your idea of an ideal retirement?
* What kind of investments do you have?
* What type of financial risk is acceptable for investments?
* What kind of insurance do we need to get?

As the sun set over the Sierras, we agreed on some spending and savings goals. Back home, we ordered our credit reports and created a budget. One goal is to ensure our joint credit is good enough to buy a home, but just to be on the safe side, I got my own credit card. That's my mandate to every spouse -- if the worst happens with divorce or a spouse death, it's tough to get a loan or credit card if you haven't built up your own separate credit history.

Another thing that works for us -- keeping a joint household account and separate accounts for our personal spending. That reduces the fights about why his wanting a motorcycle and my wanting a vacation in Panama is so dumb; we can just save for them on our own. You can share all your money secrets, you just don't have to share all your money.

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