Four crucial questions to ask before marrying someone bad with money
If marriage is about love, then divorce is all about money.
Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. You’d think that it’s something people would learn from but more than two-thirds (67%) of second marriages also end in divorce.
And one of the most common reasons couples claim as why things just didn’t work out, money.
Can you avoid the emotional pain of divorce by making sure you’re financially compatible with your partner? Should you let money differences get in the way of Cupid’s arrow?
Think Twice about Marrying Someone Bad with Money
A 2013 survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) found money issues as the third-highest cause of divorce in the United States, following only incompatibility and infidelity. It’s worth pointing out that the survey asked for the “main cause for divorce” so money issues could have factored in other break-ups without being the leading factor.
Another survey by researchers at Utah State University in 2003 found finances as the leading cause of argument between couples with 39% of respondents arguing regularly about money.
There are a lot of issues with money that go beyond just being able to pay the bills. There’s an emotional connection of money with safety and security that makes money issues a bigger problem than most people realize.
As easy as it is to get married, divorce that comes with money arguments is much more difficult and costly.
A litigated divorce can cost from $5,000 to $35,000 for each person according to the IDFA. Six-of-ten people under the poverty guidelines are divorced women or children of divorced parents. That’s to say nothing of the emotional damage for everyone involved.
I can’t tell you not to get married with someone that might not be financially-compatible. You probably wouldn’t listen to me anyway. I won’t fall back on clichés about fish in the sea and how you’ll be happier with someone you love AND with whom you agree on money issues.
What I will say is that everyone needs to ask four money questions before getting married. If those questions uncover money problems that might cause problems, you should think very carefully before tying the knot.
4 Critical Money Questions to Ask Before Getting Married
Every couple should ask these money questions before getting married, especially if they’ve argued about finances or suspect there are big differences in how each feel about money.
The answers to these questions don’t have to be relationship deal-breakers but you have to be honest with yourself, are these differences going to cause a problem in the future?
1) Who earns the most money in the relationship?
This question isn’t really about who earns more but about how that’s perceived by each. Some people have strong needs for fairness and may feel that someone not earning as much isn’t contributing as much. That’s probably a little unfair in itself, especially if it’s not the other person’s fault how much they make, but that’s just how some people feel.
Are you fine with making more or less than your partner? How do they feel about earning more or less? The partner earning less may think there’s nothing wrong with it and have no intention to raise their income.
Would you or your partner be willing to support the other if their earnings fell considerably, maybe while they go back to school for a better job?
2) Who spends the most money and on what?
Even more than how much you each make, you need to be on the same page when it comes to spending.
Does your partner already have significant debt from overspending? Do they spend on what you would call frivolous purchases? Do they earn more and think that should allow them to spend more even while they are more critical of your spending?
As with all the money questions, differences in spending don’t have to mean the end of the relationship but you do need to be aware of the differences and truly accept them or they’ll just end up causing problems.
3) What is each persons’ attitude on using credit?
This one relates to the spending question above but is also important on its own. Do you both perceive credit and borrowing in the same way?
Borrowing can be a big problem for couples where one partner sees interest charges as a financial burden while the other doesn’t see them as a big deal. If one partner opens the credit card statement every month and wonders why they are ‘working for the credit card company’ paying interest, there’s going to be some resentment in the relationship.
4) What are both partners’ long-term financial goals?
Most couples will talk about their long-term financial goals but not in the financial sense. They may talk about buying a home and where they want to live but not about how much it will cost to meet those goals.
Years after they’re married and they realize their goals might not be possible, that’s when the money arguments start.
Do your goals and your partner’s match up financially? Do you dream of living modestly in a cabin while they want yearly trips to the south of France? Do you like luxury cars while they think a Prius is a smarter decision?
It’s fine if your financial goals don’t match up perfectly but is the money there to achieve them? One partner working and saving for their McMansion may start resenting a partner not saving enough to reach those goals.
With any luck and love, asking these money questions can bring you closer together as a couple. If they reveal issues that might become arguments after you’re married, can you resolve them before getting hitched? Nobody wants to think about areas of disagreement while they’re in love but these are important conversations to have with your partner.