One of the most important aspects of a committed relationship is the way in which each of you views and handles finances. You must understand your partner's views on all things financial before you commit to marriage. If your partner’s financial ambitions are not aligned with yours, your relationship could suffer. Either one of you could find that your long-term plans are doomed to failure.
Clear communication about your attitudes to all matters financial can ensure that there are fewer misunderstandings in the future.
Having spent time together, you probably have a pretty good idea of your partner’s financial habits. However, there are probably still some details that should be shared before you take the next step in the relationship. It is vital that you understand your partner’s financial past and agree on how you plan to handle your finances in the future.
The easiest way to start this discussion is to comment on your own financial ambitions. Something along the lines of “I am saving for the down payment on a new home that I hope to purchase in three years time”. Then you could ask your partner where they see themselves in five, ten and twenty years’ time. Try not to interrogate your partner. Find ways in easy conversation to find the answers to your questions.
Here are several important things that you need to know about your partner’s financial habits before you commit.
Your financial goals must be aligned. If you prefer to save and live a quiet and frugal existence, but your partner prefers to live an extravagant life with little thought for the future, your ambitions are bound to clash.
Be warned if your partner has no financial ambitions. Someone who quickly spends windfall gains could have a problem with impulse. If this is so you could shoulder all the responsibilities in the relationship.
One’s attitude to finance is often obvious in day-to-day activities, so you probably have a pretty good idea of your partner’s regard for finance. You may understand them better if you know the origins of these attitudes. Is your partner careful with money because she has had to live through difficult financial times, or does he spend extravagantly because he had nothing as a child?
While you don’t need to know the exactly what your partner is earning, it helps to have an idea of what their income might be. This is easy enough to gauge based on their trade or profession. It is necessary to know whether the person to whom you are committing has the wherewithal to live the life that you plan for yourself.
This is especially true if you are an ambitious or professional person with a lifestyle to match.
You must know if your partner has a bad credit history, and if so, what created the situation. Many people find themselves in difficult circumstances sometimes through no fault of their own. It could be that your partner has a bad credit score but is working to rehabilitate that themselves and rectify the situation. Your partner’s credit score could affect your ability to purchase a home in the future so this is vital information.
If you are thinking of a long-term commitment, you must know the extent of your partner’s debt. If he or she has to part with a large chunk of income to service the debt every month, it could affect your household budget.
Understanding the cause of the debt will give you a better idea of how financially mature your partner is.
The amount that your partner has saved could be a good indicator of their level of financial maturity. What you will have expected your partner to have saved will depend on their age and their income.
Age is also a factor when it comes to retirement planning. If your partner has not even started to think about saving for retirement having reached their thirties, you should seriously question whether they ever will, and when they do, will it be too late?
If you have dreams that may require lifestyle adjustments, you should discuss them with your partner and gauge the reaction. If your dreams are not shared, you may have to adjust them or reconsider the commitment.
Financial attitudes can be deep set. Failure to understand the financial goals of your partner before you commit to marriage can lead to deep disappointment and major disputes in the future. A counsellor could help to lead you through the financial discussion in a diplomatic way that could uncover information essential to the health of your committed relationship.