5 Financial Questions to Ask Before Walking Down the Aisle

The month of May kicks off the spring wedding season. But before you march down the aisle and head off on your honeymoon, make sure you really know your partner.

Specifically, make sure you get intimate with your partner's financial life. Do you know anything about it?

Well, it's high-time you found out. 

And if you personally are a financial hot mess, "start getting your things in order if you know the conversation is coming," says Kemberley Washington, CPA, a member of the American Institute of CPAs Financial Literacy commission. Because you darn well know your partner is going to ask you some questions in return.

So plan a date night. Pick your favorite restaurant, pour your favorite wine, and get closely acquainted with your financial lives.

Here are the five questions you need to ask your partner before dinner is over.

Editors' pick: Originally published May 10.  

1. So...What's Your Credit Score?
1. So...What's Your Credit Score?

Now, you don't need your partner to have a perfect score of 800, though close would be nice. If it's below 700, you just should ask why. Is it just late credit card payments or is it something more?

Ask about outstanding debt obligations, like student loans or even medical bills. And understand how that stuff is going to be paid off going forward.

Make sure there's a plan in place to cover those costs, says Washington. If not, then talk about one.

2. How's Your Health Plan?
2. How's Your Health Plan?

Granted health plans are just different degrees of crappy these days. But one of your plans actually may be incrementally better than the other person's plan. So it's worth doing some investigating. Figure out the monthly fees and deductibles of each plan. Check to see where your favorite doctors show up and understand the respective prescription plans.

Especially if you plan on having kids quickly, this exercise could save you a ton of money later. So pick a plan that is good for your new "family."

3. Any Shot the IRS Is After You?
3. Any Shot the IRS Is After You?

If your partner has a shady past and owes back taxes or has liens against some properties, you absolutely should know.

Granted, this does not have to be a deal-breaker, but you need to know this stuff before you file a married filing jointly tax return.

And at a minimum, "you want to know that there is a strategy in place to fix it all," says Washington. Everyone makes mistakes but you need to know your partner is trying to correct them and has made changes for the better.

4. Who's Paying for Those Kids of Yours?
4. Who's Paying for Those Kids of Yours?

"If there are kids from a previous marriage, you need to talk about their costs, because, let's face it, they don't come cheap," says Bill Fleming, managing director in the Private Company Services group at PwC.

So who covers their health insurance? Who's paying for college? Does the ex-spouse contribute to any of this?

You need to know what your partner is going to be responsible for each month.

In addition, are the rugrats getting your partner's inheritance? You should get answers to all these questions. 

5. Should We Create a House Fund?
5. Should We Create a House Fund?

Nowadays, especially if you're getting married later in life, couples might not want to pool all their assets. So it might make sense to create a house fund that you can use to pay your bills and save for vacations or even big joint purchases, suggests Fleming.

You both could contribute an amount to the fund each month. Then you are free to do whatever you want - within the confines of your marriage - with your other separate money.

In addition, that house fund should have a budget that should include future savings. Do you need to put money aside for the future kiddies' college expenses? A vacation home? A boat? Whatever. Get it in the budget.

So while these might not your best pick-up lines, you two are well beyond that. Marriage is an exciting adventure. Just make sure you want to walk down that aisle eyes wide open.

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