By Carl Winfield
Money can be a touchy subject for couples, especially those thinking long-term relationship or marriage.
Planning a dream wedding on any budget can be a challenge. And if you’re going to buy a house, have children, or retire together, it’s important to talk about money now.
“People do continue to grow in a marriage,” says Ronald W. Roge, chairman and CEO of R.W. Roge & Company, a financial planning and investment advisory company. “If you have differences now, you may end up with similar goals down the road.”
Here are five personal finance matters to consider as you approach a life of mutual money making together:
1. Get to know their spending habits. Expensive nights out may be romantic. But if you’re engaged to someone who spends more than they earn, you should be wary of giving them access to your savings since they may use your money to pay for a lush lifestyle.
If your fiancée is too free with money for your comfort, find out if they have a trust fund to back up their expensive purchases. Otherwise, it's time to start "Financial Responsibility 101" classes.
One place to to start is personal finance organizer sites such as Geezeo.com (part of TheStreet.com) and Buxfer.com, which offer free budgeting tools. You can also download software such as You Need A Budget Pro for Windows (Stock Quote: MSFT) or, if you’re a Mac user (Stock Quote: AAPL), try MoneyWell.
2. Get to know their employment history. Job-hopping can make it difficult for individuals to pay their bills but, when you’re dependent on two salaries, it helps to know that your partner won’t leave you holding the bag. Ask your better half how long they’ve been in their present job. It’s also a good idea to find out how many jobs they’ve held before and for how long.
3. Get to know their financial goals. Sit down with your partner and make a list of the things that you want to accomplish with your money. If you’re going to get married to someone, you need to know if they have a clue about how to make that happen.
When you and your fiancée agree that getting rid of your debt or buying a house should be a long-term goal, you’ll probably end up working toward those goals more effectively than if one of you is saving for retirement and the other is dead-set on a 50” flat-screen television.
4. Get to know their assets. Roge suggests that couples sit with a financial planner to list all assets and to strategize on how to make the most of them. If you’re getting married, you should be prepared to put all your cards on the table.
If you don’t have a financial planner, you can find one on the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors web site or the Financial Planning Association’s web site.
5. Get to know their debts. Knowing how much you owe is just as important as knowing how much you have. Not all debt is bad: Student loans can be considered good debt. Big credit card balances, not so much. If you need help reducing debt, you may want to speak with a professional. The National Foundation of Credit Counseling is a good place to find a credit counselor near you. You can call them toll-free at 800-388-2227.
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