We all know the wise proverb – ‘the love of money is the root of all evil.’ But most of us also know the one that says ‘money answers all things.’ In relationships and marriages, it is important that couples find a balance between the ‘evil’ that money can be and the questions it could answer.
While I am not a marriage or relationship counsellor, I know that the best time to have money conversations is before getting into a relationship. But let’s say you didn’t have one, here are a few angles you should consider discussing with your partner.
Debt and Credit Scores
When you marry someone, legally their assets and liabilities become yours unless there is a prenuptial agreement that says otherwise. It is important that each party comes plain about what they own and owe so the other party can know what they are signing up for. For folks living in the US, credit scores can impact a huge chunk of your happiness together as a couple. It determines the interest rates you get when applying for a mortgage to buy a home, getting credit cards, your insurance premiums etc. It is therefore critical that all cards are on the table.
Most young couples like me and my husband don’t talk much about retirement. But times flies by when you are having fun and before you know it, the retirement party is planned and you are put out to pasture. Couples need to talk about their plans for retirement. Where will funds come from, how much do you each have saved for retirement already, how much will you put aside for retirement, will one or both of you work part-time, where will you both live, etc are some of the questions that will need answers. And some free advice? Your children are not a retirement plan-you are welcome.
Joint vs Separate Accounts
Some couples decide to have a joint account while others prefer to keep their individual accounts. Either way, couples will have to discuss the different accounts they currently possess and will possess and plan to use for savings, expenses and maybe emergencies. When kids show up, will there be separate savings and maybe college accounts? How about investments accounts? All these are questions to be answered before your relationship progresses any further.
People treat money differently. For instance, I am a saver and always looking for ways to cut down on expenses. My husband, while not the exact opposite concentrates on increasing streams of income rather than couponing which I am the master of. Thankfully we discussed this during courtship. Even with that, we have had to learn to work together and not get in each other’s way. For examples when making a big purchase, my husband leaves it to me to get us a good deal. I follow his lead when exploring investment opportunities.
For Christian couples, it is quite important that they both agree on critical matters of faith like tithes and offerings. I have heard of relationships falling apart because a couple couldn’t agree on whether to pay tithes. Aside from religion, there will be situations where friends and family need help. It would, therefore, be wise that couples have a discussion on who, what and when to give. Most African parents expect their grown-up working children to provide them with amounts monthly. Some expect nothing at all. Your spouse might come from a rich background with no expectations while you might need to provide your folks with a periodic allowance. Discussing this will prepare one another on what to expect with your finances.
Every couple is different but I think we can all agree that money fights are some of worst of the lot. Get these conversations in to reduce the risk of fighting over what’s not worth it.