Common "Cents" -- Financial Tips for Couples

With all the media chatter about "Kim-YE" I thought it appropriate to discuss our own personal relationships. Yes... we all know that Kim and Kanye West are both multimillionaires, but do you know the financial picture of the person you are dating?

Money should never be a divider in relationships yet many divorces are due to disagreements over financial matters. Why is this? It is my contention that it is not financial irresponsibility itself because many of us including myself have made financial mistakes. However, it is the SURPRISE of that additional bank account loaded with money that was kept secret, that unknown poor credit score, or that irresponsible shopping addiction that causes financial turmoil and arguments in a relationship.

How do we solve this?

First, let me demonstrate a critical point by telling you this story: There was a little boy who saw an elderly man sitting on a bench with a dog. The little boy walked up to the man and said:

"Hey old man... does your dog bite?"

The old man said, "No... my dog don't bite."

"Are you sure?" said the little boy.

"Yep... I'm sure," said the old man.

So the little boy went up to the dog and tried to pet the dog. Immediately the dog growled, jumped up, and bit the little boy on the hand.

"OUUUCH!!!!! Hey old man... I thought you said your dog don't bite!" said the little boy.

The old man said, "This ain't my dog."

The moral to this story is what we must apply to our financial lives... We must ask the right questions!

So again, how do we solve these financial surprises? We must communicate and ask the right questions of our loved ones. Here are a few possible questions you might ask your mate to get that crucial conversation started. Be mindful of the answers as the wrong answers could be a crucial determinant of whether or not you should take that marriage plunge

1. Do you know your FICO score?
a. If the answer is "NO" the next question is, "Why not?"
i. After you hear the reason, the next action to propose is to find out so you can both prepare your credit statements as you move towards working together to achieve common goals. Even if your credit score is 800, you should propose this joint exercise because you don't want him/her to feel as if they are doing it alone.

2. If we were to get married would you want a joint account, separate accounts, or maintain both?
a. There is really no right or wrong answer to this question but both of you should know what you are getting into before you get married.

3. What is the next major financial purchase you plan to make in the next five years and how do you plan on saving for it?
a. If they state a new fancy car and they are currently unemployed living with their parents this could be a red flag!
b. Again, there is really no right or wrong answer. However, the answer will give you additional insights into your mate's financial goals and how realistically they approach life.

4. How do you feel about casinos and gambling? When you shop, do you know how much of your budget you can spend before you shop?
a. If they gamble every weekend I would suggest taking the exit stage left!
b. Excessive, impulsive shopping can also be a red flag.

5. How many children are you planning to have and when would be an ideal time for you to start a family?
a. This is a very critical financial decision... ask any parent. The financial responsibility of children will change any household and if one is wise they would heed the words of Michael Jackson who said, "If you can't feed your baby... yeah yeah... then don't have a baby!"

To reiterate, don't be alarmed if you see signs of fiscal irresponsibility. Only be alarmed if one is not willing to work on those bad financial habits for the sake of the relationship. I have always said there is nothing wrong with being ignorant; there is only something wrong with choosing to remain ignorant. The choice to remain ignorant is the definition of stupidity and the only way to find out if you are going to marry a stupid person is to ask the right questions... this is common cents!