Jennifer Lopez had sung, “Love don’t cost a thing”. That might be true, but it does not mean you should ignore looking after and planning your finances, especially in the long run. Financial anxiety can play a considerable role in your health. According to a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, the participants who had more major financial stressors over the previous year reported more interpersonal stressors, greater psychological distress and lower levels of psychological well-being. Another study that involved older adults, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, showed that long term financial hardship can show significant effects on health and well-being in later life.
Not just your own wellness, the stress of finances can also play a major role in the well-being of your relationship, research shows. According to an article published in the journal Family Relations, newly married couples report debt as one of their top concerns, and that debt changes can predict changes in marital satisfaction. A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family showed that irresponsible spending habits can be a factor in marital problems and subsequent divorce.
“Financial infidelity”, defined as engaging in financial behaviour expected to be disapproved by one’s romantic partner and intentionally failing to disclose it, is a construct dealt with in an article in the Journal of Consumer Research. So if you have plans to settle down together, it is important to have a conversation about your money matters. Here are some questions you should ask.
1. How much debt do you have?
Ask each other about any debts or loans you might have, and discuss what the plan is towards working it off. Establish a realistic estimated timeline of paying off what you owe and becoming debt-free. Discuss and disclose any financial liability either of you may have. Consider taking the help of professionals if you feel at loss about where to start with the planning.
2. What are your earnings?
The tendency to think that talking about money is gauche often leads to a lack of awareness, transparency and confusion. Be aware of what your individual and combined earnings are. Planning a monthly budget together is prudent and will help contribute to your financial wellness.
3. What are your spending habits?
A very important question that will decide your monthly expenses. Not everyone has the same priorities and attitude when it comes to spending money. For long-term financial compatibility, figure out how, where, and how much you individually spend per month, and what modifications you will need to make as a couple.
4. How should we divide the responsibility of paying bills?
Figure out what bills you will need to pay, and then establish an arrangement of how you should go about it–who should handle which ones, how you should split it, and what the monthly deadlines are.
5. What are your future financial goals, especially in terms of savings?
Having a plan about savings is perhaps the most important financial decision of all, so be aware of each other’s saving habits. Career plans and financial goals go hand in hand, so figure out what your financial future could look like in the next three to five years. Keep in mind saving up for not only a nest egg and a safety net, but also any major future expense habits such as travel or illness
6. What should we do about joint bank accounts and insurance?
Merging finances is an important topic. Have a conversation about whether you should have joint bank accounts, and discuss protective financial decisions such as getting health insurance. Investment planning is also a key aspect, so talk about future investments you would like to undertake, whether it is buying property or investing in stocks.