It may be uncomfortable to broach the subject, but talking about money with your partner is extremely important for a healthy relationship. Even if you keep your finances separate, your partner's money habits will inevitably affect you in some way. If you're having trouble bringing up the subject, try using these questions to get you started. (For more, see Why You Shouldn't Let Your Partner Do The Books.)
IN PICTURES: Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues
- Is saving money important to you?
This question encompasses a few others, such as "have you started saving for retirement" and "do you have an emergency fund". The answer will offer a lot of insight about your partner's money personality. If saving is important, does your partner make it a priority to put a set amount away each month or paycheck? Perhaps they only put away money that comes in above their set income – money from a part-time job or freelance work, reimbursement checks, tax refunds or bonuses for example.
Does your partner put a lot of money away but has no qualms taking it back out to pay for fun purchases? Or maybe they put away less but refuse to take it out. What level of saving do they consider appropriate? Your number could vary wildly from your partner's.
- If someone gave you $1,000, what would you do with it?
There's nothing wrong if the response is "spend it!", but take the time to answer in a bit more detail. Would you spend it on some new clothes you've been denying yourself in favor of paying back your student loans? That's a very different picture than the answer of, "I'd buy lottery tickets with it instead of using it to pay rent." Your partner may be thousands of dollars in debt, but choosing to put the found money towards debt shows how serious they are about getting back in the black.
- Do you want kids?
Here's a sensitive question that isn't for a first (or even 10th) date. But if you are at that point in your relationship, the decision to have children or not will have a huge impact on your finances. According to MSN Money, the current cost of raising a child can range from $124,800 to $250,260, depending on whether it's a dual-parent family or not, and what income range the parent(s) are in. (For more, see Kids Or Cash: The Modern Marriage Dilemma.)
- How do you feel about having debt?
Debt is something most of us will deal with in our lifetime. It can be a great tool for growing a business, getting an education or building net worth through real estate. But does having debt stress your partner out? Do they prioritize getting out of debt when they incur it? Does your partner consider debt a tool to be used only when appropriate? If your partner doesn't think having debt is a big deal, they may not hesitate to put an expensive laptop on credit without a plan to pay for it. Or they may just be laid back. Ask for a more detailed explanation if you aren't sure how to read the response.
- What is your current financial state?
Are you carrying 10k in consumer debt? Do you have student loans? Do you have money stocked away for emergencies? This question gives you and your partner the opportunity to take stock of where you are with your finances. Consider retirement savings, other savings, consumer debt, student loans, investments and any other assets. This doesn't have to sound like you are calculating their net worth – exact numbers aren't really as important as knowing where their priorities are when it comes to their money.
- How many accounts do you have and where are they?
In the unfortunate event that something happens to your partner, you need to know where their assets are. What credit cards will need to be closed? What retirement accounts will need to be dealt with? What bills will be coming due? Hopefully you'll never have to deal with it, but putting all of your financial information in a place where your partner will be able to access it in the event the need arises could save you a lot of hassle later on.
IN PICTURES: 8 Steps To Teach Your Partner Household Finances
The Bottom Line
These questions are just as important to ask yourself, even if you aren't part of a couple. Be honest with your responses and you may find financial areas where you can set goals for improvement. Remember, don't just give the answer you think is "right"; it's more valuable to have a realistic view of you and your partners financial habits. Don't feel like you have to end the relationship if your answers don't match. Many couples have one partner that is more conservative with cash while the other is pretty lax about where and how they spend their paycheck. Knowing where you and your partner stand will help you keep yourselves in line financially, and make your relationship that much stronger. (For more, check out Relationship Money Matters.)
For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: FBI Insider-Trading Bust.
ProfessionalsMarried couples should thoroughly examine whether they are eligible to collect free spousal benefits on their Social Security income.
BudgetingDon't let your baby's wardrobe derail your budget. These top tips help you to save money and spend wisely on baby clothes.
Personal FinanceFinancial trends among college students are a cause for concern, prompting a renewed emphasis on financial literacy.
BudgetingThe excitement of welcoming your first child to your family shouldn't prevent you from making good cost-effective decisions.
BudgetingDating on a budget doesn't have to be boring. Try these 5 tips to find the best dates on a budget.
BudgetingBuying secondhand items is a great way to save money, but these seven kids items should not be bought used.
SavingsMillionaires have more in common than just their bank accounts. They share certain qualities that help them make it to the top.
InvestingFrom platforms for saving money to those that account for side jobs, mobile apps are changing spending habits and income generation in urban areas.
BudgetingCooking at home saves time and money but most importantly, it could even help lower future health costs.
Home & AutoFinancial experts will argue that there’s no problem with allocating 50% of your net income to housing, but that barely leaves enough money for living comfortably. Reducing housing expenses to ...
You have several options for reducing your debt burden. You can enroll in a professional debt management plan, or consider ... Read Full Answer >>
Filing bankruptcy is never a simple decision, but sometimes it is the best thing you can do in your current financial situation. ... Read Full Answer >>
The most impactful consumer protection laws and regulations in the United States are overseen by the Federal Trade Commission ... Read Full Answer >>
A mutual fund can – and should – outperform a savings account. In most cases, it should not even be a close race. Savings ... Read Full Answer >>
Though some states protect IRA savings from garnishment of any kind, most states lift this exemption in cases where the account ... Read Full Answer >>
While there is no legal reason why you cannot withdraw funds from your IRA to start a traditional savings account, it is ... Read Full Answer >>