Ideally, even before you get married you and your (future) spouse will sit down and talk about your vision of the future together. A centerpiece of that vision of the future should be related to financial things. Even things you may not consider “financial” have deep financial implications. Use this article as a guide to help you harmonize your view of the future now to keep your relationship strong over the next 50 years.
Will you own a home?
Take time to describe the type of home you’d like to have. Discuss the city and even the neighborhood where you’d like it to be. Talk about how much you’ll spend on your home.
How many children will you have?
This decision may have been made already, but be sure to confirm with each other what you plan to do. Don’t let financial considerations determine how many children you have: let the number of children you plan to have guide your financial planning. There is always a way.
Will someone stay home with kids while they’re young?
It is important to talk about your careers and how you’ll manage raising the kids. Specifically talk about how you’ll manage your roles as parents, providing for and caring for the children.
How much more education will you and your spouse pursue?
You may be 40 years old and still thinking about finishing college or going back to school for a graduate degree. Spend some time understanding one another so that you appreciate each other’s individual goals for education.
How much responsibility do parents have for their children’s college education?
Some parents feel that their children are on their own after age 18 and others feel like helping their children through college is their responsibility. Still others help their kids all the way through graduate school, even if the kids are married. Make sure you’ve talked about your view of a parent’s responsibility for a child’s education.
Is debt to be avoided morally?
Some people approach debt with purely practical thoughts. Others view debt as morally wrong. Be sure you and your spouse have talked about your views about debt so that you can develop either identical or at least mutually respectful approaches to borrowing money, using credit cards, etc.
What sort of cars will you drive?
This seemingly trivial question may have a greater impact on your ability to achieve your other financial goals than any other question in this article. If always driving new cars is important to you, that will have implications. If you are content to drive old cars, that will have different implications.
Where and how often will you vacation?
For many people, photos of family vacations are prized possessions and the memories are cherished treasures. For others, travel is a stressful burden. Talk about your view and how you’ll approach family vacations. Be sure to consider, at least briefly, how the dynamics of vacations will change as your children leave the nest. Will you expect your children to visit home with their families at the same time each year or just pop in when they can?
When and where will you retire?
Not only do you need to decide when and where, but also how you’ll retire. What do you want retirement to look like? With careful planning, you may be able to retire much earlier than your peers. Some people can’t imagine retiring — some never do. Talk about what’s important to you.
As you talk about your financial future together, your goal should not be to persuade your spouse of your view so much as it should be to understand how your spouse feels about these issues. If you can both listen and understand where the other is coming from on each issue, it will be much easier to reach agreement on a shared vision.
With a clear, shared vision in place, you’ll want to create specific long-term goals for realizing the vision. Buying a home will require a down payment; helping the kids with their college expenses will require college savings; retirement will require extensive planning, too.
As you look at the big picture, start developing the specific, actionable and measureable goals that will allow you to realize your vision. Then comes the hardest part. You’ve got to develop the short term action plan — the budget — that will allow you to achieve those goals and realize your vision.