Marriage and money
Marriage and money

Marriage and Money: What finance questions to ask before a proposal

22nd March 2024

As couples navigate the complexities of love and law, the question of a 'prenup' often arises before the "I dos." But hold on, before you even think about asking that special question, there's another important thing to talk about – money. It's crucial to ask the right financial questions before the proposal, making sure both of you are on the same page.

According to Clearscore 64% of couples dive into money chats weekly, but shockingly, 23% barely touch on finances four times a year. But, at least 20% expressed a desire for more frequent money talks.

While not the most romantic topic, understanding each other’s financial values and goals is crucial for a stable financial future. Let’s dig into the key finance questions in marriage to ask before proposing.

Are we going to have a prenup? How does it protect our financial assets and outline financial responsibilities?

A prenuptial agreement is never an easy subject to broach with your partner.

A study conducted by Co-op Legal Services found that an estimated 18 million married Brits equivalent to 79%, don’t have a prenuptial agreement.

In the UK, prenups don't automatically hold up in court. Back in 2010, the Supreme Court said they might get a nod if both partners were fully on board and aware of the deal. But here's the kicker – it's not a one-size-fits-all. Still, having one is a smart move. It lays down the money rules and looks out for both of you in the long run.

Prenups are not limited to those with extreme wealth or financial circumstances. Many people also use them to protect family heirlooms.

Do you have any financial dependents? How will it impact our long-term goals, such as buying a house, becoming debt-free, or investing?

Whether it’s child support or your parent’s medical bills, sorting out these financial responsibilities with your partner is a must.

Even if you're not throwing cash into the pot, knowing where the money flows is crucial. It’s the key to avoiding hiccups in big goals like buying a house or investing.

Do you expect us to manage our finances together or by ourselves? What is the preferred approach for us?

There is no one approach for how to manage finances together – you can decide what works best for you and your partner.

If you're already managing bills together, make sure both of you are on board with the arrangement. The fairest approach often aligns with your individual earnings. You can also discuss whether you prefer a joint or separate bank account.

If you plan on having children, consider how maternity or paternity leave will be managed and paid for. Talking about childcare and working out how to manage the expenses is also a good idea to handle finances together.

Are you ready for a "money date"? How can regular financial check-ins benefit our financial goals?

According to Peter Saddington, a Relate counsellor based in Northampton, addressing issues like debts, bills, or savings preferences later on is more likely to be successful if money is already a topic you discuss.

He adds “Think of these as regular dates, but with a purpose - to talk about money matters. Choose a calm, cosy setting like dinner at a restaurant. During this date, you can dive into your expectations and your financial goals. For instance, you can set a target date for buying a house.”

He recommends making these "dates" short, ideally around 20 minutes. This increases the chance of sticking to the key points and steering clear of old arguments.

Of course, you’ll need to have follow-up conversations with your partner in the future. You can discuss how you’re progressing towards your targets. Celebrate reaching life goals with a fun celebration!

Do either of us have debt? How do we plan to address it in a realistic way and together?

It's a good idea for couples to talk about debt, covering things like student loans, car payments, and credit card debt. Taking this proactive approach helps manage and understand existing debt as you aim to pay it off.

You might want to dive into the specifics of the debt, outlining a clear and realistic plan to settle it. If both of you have various loans and other credit, and you're struggling to keep up with repayments or paying more than necessary, after getting hitched, you could think about debt consolidation as an option.

Is there a large expense on the horizon, such as a wedding or other major financial undertaking? How do we budget for it?

Given the circumstances, the wedding is likely to be your largest immediate expense. You can have a chat with your partner about how you'd prefer to fund the wedding – whether it's through savings or perhaps considering wedding loans.

It’s also important to recognise how big financial commitments will affect both of you down the line. For example, if your partner plans to attend university, it's something that will need considerable financial planning.

What are your credit scores, and how will they impact our joint financial decisions?

Keeping an eye on individual credit scores is crucial since they impact both partners. This relates to shared assets like credit access, a house, or a car. Get to know your partner's credit situation by chatting about debts and future goals that involve credit access.

It's equally necessary to be aware of any instances of fraud either of you may have experienced. If credit scores aren't ideal, you could work together to address and improve the situation.

Do you have a will? How can we ensure that the distribution of our assets is appropriate?

Discussing a will before marriage can help you sort out how to manage assets and responsibilities after death. It's about making sure your loved ones are taken care of if anything happens to either of you.

If it is only two of you, the division of assets after death is simple. But, if there are other dependents involved, things can get complicated. A valid will ensures both of you have a say in your plans for the future. It can prevent potential conflicts as you enter this new chapter together.

Do you prefer to spend or save, and how can we find a compromise between different spending habits?

It is important to determine your priorities and how you balance them. Whether you’re a saver or a spender, you may have to compromise to find a middle ground.

But it is necessary to understand what each partner considers a 'splurge.' That means getting a handle on what spending feels like a treat or an extra expense. Talking openly about these preferences helps you both find common ground in managing money together.

To Sum Up

Your money habits influence your relationships more than your bank accounts.

For valuable insights into navigating money conversations with your partner, consider listening to BBC Radio 4’s The Money Clinic. This show features a relationship counsellor guiding couples through candid and intimate discussions about their finances and emotions.

Additionally, you could explore this guide by Money Helper on discussing finances with your partner. It covers various topics such as differing attitudes toward money, considerations when moving in together and handling life's changes.

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