5 Financial Questions You Should Discuss in Pre-Marital Counseling

by Marie on October 11, 2012 · 8 comments

Hubby and I have been married to each other for 40 years. Like any couple, we have had our ups and downs, our fights and make ups, but for the most part we have been happier than not. We also ended up being able to live with each others financial personalities, habits and expectations – through trial and error.

We had one premarital counseling course through the church. It was a required course and we didn’t get much out of it. It also didn’t really help us uncover much about each other.

It was years before we really learned about our own and each others attitudes and aptitudes towards money. Do better than we did! Find out what you can before you marry. But know that these things can change over time as well – with your changing circumstances

Here are 5 questions I wish we had explored before marriage!

What is your money personality?

How to ask it? Read the third chapter of Silver Spoon Kids How Successful Parents Raise Responsible Children by Eileen Gallo, P.H.D. And Jon Gallo, J.D. Take their quiz. Find out your comparative focus on the acquisition, use and management of money.

Why to ask it? It can help you discover how YOU feel about money and it can help you both figure out if one of you is a spendthrift, the other a micro- manager or one or both are misers!

Also explore each others parent’s money styles as we tend to mimic the behavior we have seen while growing up.

No one discussed this stuff back when we married! Money talk was taboo. Who knew that he would turn out to be a collector who loved to spend freely on certain stuff, but was kind of a miser on other stuff? Who knew that I would turn out to be a micro manager – tracking each dollar?

How often should we take a vacation (with travel)?

How to ask it? Explore vacations taken in birth family. If your finance did not travel as a child or young adult, she may think it is frivolous Ask what if questions on uses of money such as “What would you do with an unexpected $1000 dollars if all normal expenses are already covered?

Why to ask it? If one person traveled and one did not, each will have differing expectations on how to spend money and leisure time. Not understanding the other person’s position on travel/vacation can cause a lot of disappointment and stress in a marriage.

We certainly didn’t cover this in our premarital counseling! My folks packed us up for two week road trips every single year. They described themselves as gypsies. His folks seldom left home for vacations. While we were dirt poor, I understood not wanting to vacation, but once we had enough I wanted to go! I happily planned trips for the family. He grudgingly accompanied us (to protect us) and was unhappy the entire time. Now I travel, he stays home.

How many kids do you want to have?

How to ask it? Ask directly, but also explore how many kids were in the birth family and how your finance felt about his/her siblings.

Why to ask it? Kids are expensive and a basic probable outcome of marriage (also an expectation of grandparents!).

Again, not something discussed as part of a Catholic premarital counseling session! His family has 4 kids, my family had two (as far back as 3 generations and on all sides). His grandfather had 16!

He insisted we stop at two. I would have gone for three.

What is your credit rating?

How to ask it? Exchange reports and scores. If one or the other party won’t do this, discuss how much debt each has – at least in terms of how long it will take to pay it off.

Why to ask it? Aside from the obvious fact that it can affect your own status, knowing how your future spouse feels about debt, and his  debt history, can tell you something about how risk averse he  might be (or not).

Come to find out that my spouse is exceptionally risk averse (read that “No damn debt, ever”) and I am a moderate risk taker (I want investment property, I want stocks, not bonds, etc). Sometimes this helped us maintain some balance in the riskiness of our ventures, other times it just caused frustration!

Who made money decisions in your birth family?

How to ask it? Read Estate Planning for the Healthy Wealthy Family – How to Promote Family Harmony, Affirm Your Values, and Protect your Assets By Stanley D. Neeleman, J.D. Carla B. Garrity, PH.D and Mitchell A. Baris, PH.D. It has questions such as: How did your parents earn a living? Were they rich or poor? What were your challenges based on your families financial status? Did your parents care about improving social standing? Use the answers to have a discussion.

Why ask it? Unless they consciously decide otherwise and take steps to make it so, most people tend to repeat actions, expectations and decisions they witnessed growing up.

Sometimes, for instance, guys have the idea they should be the breadwinner of the family. Sometimes the breadwinner thinks they get to make all the money decisions. These can cause marital stress.

I had no idea my spouse felt bad when I started making more money than he, but I know I felt constrained in my money decision making while I was a non-earning stay at home Mom to our toddlers.

There are many other questions and discussions you should have prior to tying the knot. These are just a few that I feel we should have explored – instead of fumbling our way through them!

Even if you dig and dig into each others past, feelings and expectations, things will usually change over time. You don’t stay the same person you are when you marry. The two of you grow, individually and together as you march through life, battling the challenges you meet along the way.

Did you have premarital counseling? What financial topics do you think should be covered?

Disclaimer: I am not a trained counselor or psychologist. Consult the proper authorities for professional help in premarital counseling.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pauline October 11, 2012 at 6:18 am

How impressive that you have managed to make it work for 40 years! I believe that money discussions are essential before and during marriage on a regular basis to keep everyone happy and avoid frustration. Many happy couple end up splitting up because of money related problems.

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2 Marie at Family Money Values October 11, 2012 at 11:12 am

Yep, 40 years is a lifetime!

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3 Emily @ evolvingPF October 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

We had a really great premarital counseling program – very extensive. We discussed all of your above questions either before getting engaged or during our engagement and through counseling went so far as to set up our first joint budget!

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4 Marie at Family Money Values October 11, 2012 at 11:12 am

Emily,
Thanks for sharing. Were there any other questions relating to money that were discussed (ones I didn’t cover)?

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5 Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies October 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm

We both knew each other’s money habits and overall goals before we got married – but didn’t take a pre-marital class.
Oddly that was a minor bone of contention since taking a course through a local church would have waived the $60 marriage license fee. Mr. PoP had never gone to church in his life and viewed it as a sociological experiment, whereas I had my fill of church growing up and couldn’t stand the idea of a church trying to put their foot in between me and my husband. Needless to say, I won – no class. But after over 5 years of dating at that point, I’m pretty confident that we were good on most of the possible topics. =)

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6 Marie at Family Money Values October 11, 2012 at 10:54 pm

So have you been together long enough to know for sure?

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7 Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin October 21, 2012 at 11:26 am

First off congrats on 40 years of marriage that is a truly special thing, absolutely amazing! You drive good points home about talking with your soon to be spouse about finances whether it be in pre-marital counseling or a simple conversation at home. I believe a majority of marriages that end in failure could be avoided if the couple had taken the time to have these deep conversations before discovering their differences after getting married.

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8 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues October 25, 2012 at 9:19 am

Thanks. I believe that it helps to have these discussions, but I also believe that people need to realize that they are promising to stay together for LIFE when they get married.

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