Updated: 8/2/2012 6:55 PM ET|
10 money questions for your mate
3. May I see your credit reports?
Ah, now we're getting into the real grit. Your files at the three major credit bureaus show what you owe and how you've handled your credit accounts in the recent past. Once you've decided to hitch your wagons, this is stuff you should be sharing with each other.
"Sharing your credit reports will get everything on the table, perhaps even things you did not know existed," Hunt said. "And yes, it is scary, and yes, it may be the most difficult thing you will ever do together as you build your relationship."
I'd like to see every couple do this before they move in together or tie the knot. But it's a smart idea to keep doing it every year. That can give you early warning if your partner is taking on new debts or if old collections have popped up to suddenly trash your credit.
Even if you've decided to keep your finances strictly separate -- and most couples don't, opting to merge their money to at least some extent -- your debts will affect how much money you have available for other goals, so they need to be revealed.
"Once you know what you are dealing with," Hunt said, "it will be much easier to get a plan together to repair, restore, improve or whatever needs to be done going forward."
4. How are we going to pay off our debts?
Once all is revealed, the next step is to figure out what to do with what you've found.
Your attitudes about how much debt is "acceptable" and how fast you need to pay it off may vary. Again, there's no one right answer. You'll need to find an approach that works for both of you, given your bills and other goals in life. To get you started on prioritizing debt and making a plan, read "A debt payoff plan that works.
Richards recommended that any couple that can't seem to work out a compromise on their own try talking to a third party.
"Sometimes it helps to have a third-party moderating," Richards said. "It can be a CPA, an attorney, a financial planner, anyone you both trust."
5. Are we saving enough for retirement?
Figuring out the "right" amount to save involves more than punching numbers into a retirement calculator. A couple that's determined to retire early and travel a lot is probably going to have to save piles more than serial entrepreneurs who can't imagine ever not working or those who expect a generous pension.
Savers who got a late start or suffered big setbacks may have to adjust their expectations for how much money they'll be able to accrue -- and thus how much they'll have to spend in retirement. Plus, what you plan may not happen. Disability may kick you out of the workforce early, for example, or your kids or parents may need unexpected financial help.
So this conversation needs to be a continuing one, adjusting for the twists and turns life sends you. Start talking about what your ideal day in retirement might look like. Figure out a ballpark estimate of what you'd be spending annually in that retirement, then use a retirement calculator to see if you can get from here to there. If not, consider making adjustments (saving more now, spending less in the future) until you have a realistic plan. Put it in motion, and check in regularly to make sure you're on track.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Good questions. I sure wish I'd of asked my wife some of these questions, but the one about how much do we owe the kids for sure?
We got a son who just doesn't understand the meaning of work for a living...I'd of kicked him out by now, but she think he should be allowed to stay awhile longer.
There is no way to make a money conversation romantic. For all you unmarried folks out there, a word of advice: a marriage is a partnership, not a romantic get away. No matter how often he brings flowers or how cool she is about you hanging out with your buddies, the honeymoon will wear off and life will take over.
Frank discussions about money need take place before the I dos. Saving and spending habits can be good indications of marital compatibility. Before we got engaged, we sat down and swapped checkbooks and credit reports. When you get married you marry the whole person, including their debt.
Money issues are the leading cause of divorce.
I recommend a prenumptial agreement. Making the other person responsible for their actions during a marriage is good for the union. Just because you are good with money today doesnt mean you will be tomorrow.
Many people are responsible until they dont have to be. (I.e my husband/wife makes enough to carry us so I can spend on toys that I want)...change of mindset can kick in after "I Do". If you get a good attorney and spend the little bit now to protect yourself, you will feel much more secure in your marriage...and any financial secrets that come out (people hide stuff after marriage too) may not affect you because of your pre-nup. Keep finances separate (credit cards, car loans, personal loans, student loans). Have the home included in the prenup as well..such as "if we divorce, the home will be .........."
People tend to be their true selves when financial issues are addressed before marriage.
Sounds like a business deal but if you look at marriage in the eyes of the states it is! you cant ignore legal ramifications of marriage and divorce.
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