Article Written by: Lerato Maboya
One of the key ingredients for a successful marriage is effective communication. I have always understood this to be the ability to share with your partner, in a completely open manner, everything on your mind and in your heart – from your fears to your wildest dreams. Like with every skill, this ability is not cultivated overnight; it is something that every couple has to work on deliberately and consistently.
After I got engaged, the only thing worse than waking up to the realisation that I would soon have to co-plan a wedding with an A-type, perfectionist, through-and-through pedantic lawyer was realising that I am one myself! Two lawyers, 14 hour work days and six months until our wedding day, it became very clear to us from the onset that we would need to get a lot done, fairly quickly. But before we got caught up in the wedding planning frenzy, it was important to me that we sit down and have a sincere conversation about money.
You see I have been told, by enough people that I look up to, that money is the leading cause of breakdown in marriages worldwide and as such, if my fiancé and I stood a chance at a happy and successful marriage, we would need to find alignment on our financial affairs (or at the very least, the philosophies which underpin these). In preparation for this conversation, I did some soul-searching, heart-searching and mind-searching in an attempted to pull together a list of key finance-related questions that would drive this conversation.
Following this discussion, it was very easy for me to agree to write a piece on this topic because I am now the biggest advocate for this process. Not only has this process helped us figure out where our communication weaknesses lay, it also helped us plough through the intricacies of this issue and helped us understand where our compatibilities are and where we still need to establish alignment. I share with you below what I think is a useful guideline to help you facilitate this seemingly awkward and uncomfortable conversation and wish you and your partners all of the best!
- What finance related boundaries would you like us to establish upfront?
- What is your attitude toward money?
- What did your parents teach you about spending, saving, philanthropy?
- Where do you see us in five years’ time?
- What do you envision for our shared future? Do you see children? Do you see a rural, urban or suburban life? Do you see a continued career path or a shift in a different direction?
- How do you feel about debt?
- How do you feel about saving up? What is your approach to saving?
- How do you feel about your current financial position generally?
- What is your income?
- What is your expenditure (including debts)?
- Do you work off a budget?
- Are you an impulse spender or a penny pincher?
- What does your credit score look like?
- Is your income subject to fluctuation, and do you expect to receive any bonuses?
- What are your finance related priorities for the foreseeable future?
- What capital intensive priorities do you have in the near future?
- What are your assets?
- What are your weaknesses when it comes to managing your finances? How are you working on improving these weaknesses?
- Have you made allowance in your finances for a ‘rainy day’? If so, what is the extent of your allowance? Would it be able to cover your monthly expenses (and for how long)?
- What is your thinking on our wedding budget?
- What is your minimum and maximum expenditure?
- Who do you expect will pay for our wedding?
- What are your expectations in relation to our finances as a couple?
- What assets would you be willing to share with me?
- What assets would you like kept separate from our joint resources?
- Once we are married, who do you expect will pay for our joint monthly expenses?
- What matrimonial property regime would you like governing our union? (Typical options: in community of property and loss, out of community of property and loss, in community of property and loss but with accrual, out of community of property and loss but with accrual)
- Would you be open to combining our bank accounts and managing our finances from this joint account?
- When would you like to buy a house? Would you like to do this jointly or separately? In our personal capacity or through a company or trust?
Joint Improvement & Going Forward
- What good finance related habits would you like us to adopt as a couple?
- Would you be open to seeing a financial advisor together to help us manage our joint finances better?
- What are your thoughts on estate planning? Have you started preparing a will?
Senior Associate Attorney
LLB; University of the Witwatersrand