Moving in together is a financial commitment, and so is marriage, so it’s important to consider the tough issues you’ll face as a cohabiting or married couple.  

Dr. Romance's Financial Questions to Ask Before Marriage or Moving in Together

  1. The family you grew up in shapes an amazing amount of your prejudices, unconscious behavior, values and reactions regarding money. Discuss each of your family attitudes regarding money. Does someone’s family resent rich people, or think being poor indicates a character flaw?  Did one family use money as a reward?  Were they extravagant with gifts?  Did they emphasize saving?  It’s important to know if you have vastly different backgrounds regarding money.
  1. If there are children from another marriage, that can strongly affect your joint finances. Is there child support to pay? What about travel, medical school and other expenses for those children? Will you have to have a bigger home to accommodate visits from the children?
  1. Food is a big part of any budget, and it gets bigger if you eat out a lot. How much will you be spending on food? Shop for groceries together, to learn more about preferences and habits.
  1. What about nonprofit charity or contributions? Does one of you tithe to a religious organization, or donate to a political party or candidate? How will that affect your joint budget?
  1. How well do you share your finances? Will you pool your resources, or just  share joint expenses, and have the rest of your income separate?
  1. Even though it may be a few years down the road, this is the time to consider whether both of you want children. They are a major investment, and you need to know how you feel about public or private education, college, medical insurance, clothes, toys and electronics for the kids, and other child-related expenses.
  1. Pets can be almost as big a deal as kids. If you have or want pets, talk about costs such as vet bills for annual shots, license fees and what happens if the animal gets really sick.
  1. You both should know at least the basics about running your lives. What happens when the one who cooks is sick? Do you know how your finances work? Is there a mortgage on your house or condo? Who is on the lease?  Where do you go to the doctor? How do you call in to work if one of you is sick?  What insurance, utilities, and bank accounts do you need to know about?
  1. How do the two of you handle it when things go wrong? What happens when the toilet doesn't work, or the car breaks down away from home? What if a big error is made on the checking account? What if you lose a credit card or get a wallet or purse stolen? What if the one of you who usually handles or fixes it isn't around?  How are you going to budget for repairs and problems?
  1. Do either of you have debt?  Do you intend to save? Are there credit problems? Do you have plans to own a house? How will you accomplish it, and what's your financial plan.  How will you share the household expenses -- rent, utilities, repairs?
  1. If one or both of your families are far away, visiting (or hosting them) will cost money. What expenses other than travel will you encounter to stay in touch with family?  Also, how do you feel about family financial help?  Would you take help buying a house or with medical expenses if they offered?  Would there be strings attached? What if someone’s family member needs financial help?
  1. Have you made a budget? If you have a disparity in income (one has a good job, the other is a starving student) do you have an arrangement that feels fair to both of you? Will it continue to feel fair as time goes on?
  1. Is your family involved in your finances? Do they pay for school, help with the mortgage or the down payment, do you owe them money you're paying back?  Do you expect to get an inheritance, and does that give your family any control over your life decisions?  Do you come from different financial backgrounds (such as poverty vs. riches)?
  1. Does one of you travel for work, or visit friends or family far away? How will this affect your finances?
  1. What are your dreams for the future? Where do you want to be when you retire? Are you making plans to have your finances in place? Are you financially prepared to share a long time together?
  1. How well did you discuss these questions? No one can guarantee the outcome of sharing your lives, but you can change the odds in your favor if you understand how you both feel about all these issues -- even the ones that seem far away now. 

This may sound like a lot to discuss, but unconsidered financial issues can become big problems in your relationship.  Discussing the issues ASAP will give you a foundation for the many money talks that will arise when you share life.  Excerpted from How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together

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Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.