Getting ready to propose will be one of the most exciting times in your life, and whether you are surprising your lady, or you have already discussed marriage, the anticipation is probably high. Before you get down on one knee and make things official, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions. In 2013 Kansas State University researcher Sonya Britt found that the top predictor of divorce is arguments about money. Obviously, if you are planning to propose to your girlfriend or partner, you are hoping to stay together, so considering your finances ahead of time is a good idea. Before you propose, you should ask yourself if your financial goals align, and whether you are confident that you have a strong financial future. If you are concerned about your mutual finances, you might need to have a talk. Here are four questions to answer before you propose.
1. Do you know about her debt?
Starting a marriage with one person in serious debt can add a lot of stress to the marriage. According to the Urban Institute, thirty-five percent of Americans with a credit file have a report of debt in collections. This is a large percentage of Americans, and there’s about a one-in-three chance that your potential spouse is one of these people. Not only can debt make it difficult for you to apply for loans as a married couple, but the debt can also have an emotional impact on your marriage if it causes a lot of arguments. If you haven’t had a conversation about debt, you should both be honest; sit down and figure out how you are going to manage any debt you are each bringing to the relationship.
2. Is she responsible with money?
If you have noticed that your partner lies about money, spends recklessly, or has a lot of credit card debt, then those might be good indicators that she isn’t very responsible with money. If you get married, you risk going into debt, or experiencing regular arguments if she isn’t careful with finances. Your best bet is to first decide if her lack of responsibility is a serious enough issue to make you want to walk away. If it isn’t, it might be good for her to seek help, or at least start a budget: write down your combined income, list your expenses, subtract your income from those expenses, and keep track of the expenses. If you want to, you could also do this activity separately to compare your spending habits.
3. Do your financial goals align?
If you hope to retire by 65, and her spending habits would require you to keep working until you’re 80, you might have a problem. If you want to keep renting for the next 10 years, but she wants to purchase a home right now, you are certainly going to run into problems. It’s necessary to discuss your financial goals so you are on the same page, and it’s probably best to do this before you propose and make a long-term commitment. According to Money Crashers, some common long-term financial goals include getting out of debt, making and using a budget, saving a specific amount of money, no longer using credit cards, and purchasing a big-ticket item. Discussing these five goals is a great way to start.
4. Are you prepared to handle issues and arguments?
Most couples fight, but learning how to discuss issues in a respectful and productive manner will help your marriage last. According to Sonya Britt’s research, seeking a financial planner as part of premarital counseling can be beneficial, as can pulling each other’s credit reports, and discussing how to fairly handle finances together. Having a financial planner, in addition to discussing finances ahead of time, can help you begin your marriage in a proactive manner. Be sure to discuss how you will handle issues in the future too. You will need to determine if you are going to merge your finances (if you haven’t already), how you will complete your taxes, and when you will start saving for your emergency fund and your retirement.
Financial problems can certainly put stress on a marriage, but if you discuss potential issues now, you will be better prepared when stressful financial situations arise. Make sure you are comfortable regarding your financial future with your partner before you pop the question.