So you've said "yes" to each other, to marriage, to a lifetime together. A moment like that can spill right into joyful wedding planning, but there is some other planning a couple needs to do before focusing on a ceremony and a day of celebration. Money planning -- not for one day but for your life together as a couple.
When couples come together, they bring different approaches to money and often different lessons learned about handling money. Guaranteed, money will always be difficult to talk about as a couple and will often be the source of disagreements that lead to arguments. If you start the money conversation before marriage, you'll likely get off to a better start than many couples. So before you decide how many people to invite to the wedding and how much you should spend on a reception, here are some questions to ask each other about money to start life as a couple on solid financial ground.
1.) How many accounts do you have, and what kind are they? (Checking, savings, money markets?) How long have you had them? Start with an inventory of the accounts you both hold and how you handle them. Do you balance checking accounts at the end of the month? Do you do your banking online? As this 25-question checklist from Real Simple magazine notes, if your partner has maintained one checking account for many years and checks it to make sure there are no mistakes, those are good signs of financial stability.
2.) How many credit cards do you have, and how do you use them? Set aside lots of time to talk about credit cards. Since we are coming down from a consumer-credit frenzy, there's a good chance one or both of you have run up some scary balances on credit cards. Ask each other if you've ever maxed out a credit card, or if you pay off balances at the end of every month. If either or both of you have credit-card debt, you need to total it so you can come up with a plan to pay it off and get rid of it. Tackling debt is the first thing you need to do as a couple before you can achieve financial goals for your future.
3.) What other debt do you have? Credit-card debt is only one kind. Chances are there are some student debts or car loans, too, and you need to decide how to tackle all of your debt for the same reasons as above.
4.) Have you checked your credit score lately? We should each be checking on our credit reports and scores to make sure our credit is in good standing for when we need to apply for loans (once credit is available again!) Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get credit reports from the three major consumer credit reporting companies. It's a good idea to do this once a year, and to definitely do so six months before you plan to apply for a major loan since it may take time to clear up problems or fix errors on the report.