Financial Compatibility in Couples
I remember many years ago sitting in church with my then fiance. The Pastor that day was talking about money. That was the first (and last) day I heard someone talking about money at our church. Not in a “we need to raise x amount of money for a new building” way, but in a way that was real and about relationships with our significant other in regards to money.
I looked at my then fiance and realized we had never talked about money, and we were getting married in a week. I didn’t even know what his income was, or how much our apartment was that he reserved for us for after the wedding.
So after church we had a very eye-opening conversation. What I discovered was, he didn’t make much money. He had reserved an apartment that was a few hundred dollars a month more than his housing allowance (he was in the military at the time). And he was in a lot of debt.
From that conversation we decided that he would cancel the apartment he had on hold and find a less expensive one, to fit better into our “budget”. (We used the word “budget” but didn’t really have one.)
At our rehearsal dinner, his mother told my mother, “He’s not very good with money.” My mom’s response was “That’s OK, Cara is really good with it.” Yet nobody bothered to tell me about this conversation or his money habits until years later.
What ensued over the next year was me sobbing every time he got paid and I paid the bills. After all the bills were paid, we would have $30 for food, gas, diapers, etc., and that $30 was supposed to last us for two weeks. Can you imagine what position we would’ve been in if he kept the first apartment?
You see, I was a saver and he was a spender, and we were constantly broke. It was a major source of contention in our relationship, the cause of many fights, and we eventually ended up divorcing.
As the old adage goes, “If I knew then what I know now...”
I don’t want this for you.
If you are single, you need to read the Financial Mindset Questionnaire below and keep this in mind when you are dating. This questionnaire will also help you discover your financial mindset if that's not something you've thought about before.
If you are married, this tool will help you see if you and your spouse are on the same page financially.
Financial Mindset Questionnaire for Couples
- The golden rule as my grandfather used to declare it, “He who has the gold, rules.” In other words, whoever makes the most money makes the most money-related decisions in the relationship. Agree/Disagree
- Couples should make money decisions together in a relationship, including decisions on major purchases. Agree/Disagree
- I check the balance in my bank account regularly - at least once a week. Agree/Disagree
- I keep receipts for all major purchases. Agree/Disagree
- I know my credit score. Agree/Disagree
- I have a “good” credit score - above 700. Agree/Disagree
- We should have joint accounts and combine our money. Agree/Disagree
- It’s important to know where every penny of our money goes. Agree/Disagree
- I am consistent with putting money aside in a savings account at least every month, if not every paycheck. Agree/Disagree
- A young couple doesn’t need life insurance until they have kids. Agree/Disagree
- I was fully aware of my family’s financial situation when I was growing up. Agree/Disagree
- Only wealthy people set up retirement accounts. Agree/Disagree
- I’m young, I don’t need to worry about retirement yet. I’ll save for that later. Agree/Disagree
- If I try to see myself 5 years down the road I know exactly where I want to be. Agree/Disagree
- Nothing should be bought on credit during the first year of marriage. Agree/Disagree
- Credit Card statements should be paid in full every month. Agree/Disagree
- I know what my partner’s financial situation is before we get married. I know how much debt they have and how much money they make. Agree/Disagree
- If we have children, one parent should stay home when they are little. Which parent would that be? Agree/Disagree
- I feel obligated to help out a parent, brother, or sister who needs emergency financial assistance. Agree/Disagree
Now that you’ve gone through the questionnaire, are there any topics you need to discuss with your boyfriend/girlfriend, fiance, or spouse? Some of the issues that arise may just require a conversation. Some may require additional financial education, and some may require counseling. None of these should be deal breakers, but it’s so important to get on the same page. Your financial future depends on it.