Ask Karen Gibbs

Veteran business correspondent Karen Gibbs answers your personal money questions and addresses current topics that affect YOUR finances on a daily basis. Karen is the financial expert in your corner--no question is too basic or too small. Karen boils down the issues simply: here's what you need to know, and here's what you need to do. Send your money questions to AskKaren@mpt.org and post your comments below.

12

August

Focus on Marriage & Money

Karen Gibbs

Karen, my boyfriend and I are planning a November, 2017 wedding.  What financial issues should we discuss before tying the knot?

- Melissa, Gwynn Oak


2 Wedding Champagne glassesCongratulations, Melissa, on your pending nuptials. You’re smart to try to anticipate money issues that may arise.  (The love of) Money is the root of all evil and the source of most martial tensions.


First, pick a time where both of you can talk freely and openly about your attitudes toward money.  You want to know if you’re financially compatible and what to expect if you’re not.  Is one of you a spender while the other is a saver?  Are you debt free or in hock?


Most of our attitudes about money are formed by watching our parents.   A good place to start is to inquire about your parents’ attitude toward money.  How did they handle it?  Who handled the family finances?  Do either of you harbor (unconscious) gender biases as to who makes more or pays the bills?


As you discuss your wedding plans, you can also ask about his (and your) dreams, goals and aspirations.  Where do you want to live? Rent or own a home? Where do you see yourself five, ten years from now?  How much ambition do you have?  Will both of you work or does one spouse plan to stay at home?  Do you want to have children?  If so, how many?  Children are expensive and need to be factored into the equation.


You should also be very transparent about your current finances.  How much do you make?  What assets do you own (car, home, retirement savings, etc)?  Do you follow a budget?  How much do you owe?  How much debt, including student loans, are you carrying?


If one of you is more financially sound than the other, do you want a pre-nuptial agreement?  Are there children outside the upcoming union?  If so, how do we address issues of an extended family; child support, visitation, etc?


How will you handle household finances?  Will you have a joint bank account and/or separate accounts?  Will you split household bills 50-50 or as a percentage of income brought to the marriage?


What stresses you out about money?  What’s the dumbest move you’ve ever made when it comes to money?  Are you a risk taker or are you risk averse and make conservative decisions?


How do you both feel about charitable contributions?  Would one of you object to tithing 10% of your income to your church?


This conversation may take many days, but the important thing is to initiate the conversation.  Once you’ve developed a financial framework for your union, it may be necessary to revisit and revise as life events occur.


Marriage is a big step.  It helps to have as few roadblocks as possible to your happiness.  Removing the financial stress is one step to ensure a long and happy life.  

Good luck!

- Karen

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