So you’ve fallen in love. Maybe you’ve even done the unspeakable and balloted for an HDB flat. Well, before you fork out that downpayment for your first home and show up at the Registry of Marriages, here are 11 issues you absolutely must discuss with your spouse-to-be.
1. How big of a wedding to have
Believe it or not, many couples are forced to come to an unhappy compromise when it comes to the cost and scale of their weddings. Parents who insist on big wedding banquets are quite common, but this can cause problems if one half of the couple wants to have a super budget hipster wedding on some HDB rooftop.
2. Your accommodation options after marriage
Most Singaporean couples move in together right after marriage, which means it is crucial to discuss where you will live and what your budget for a home is. If, like most, you will be buying an HDB flat, you will have to choose one with which both are comfortable budget-wise.
Also, one large consideration especially for couples buying a BTO flat is where they will stay while their flat is being built. If you are planning to rent a place while waiting, make sure you at least offset some of the cost by using services like CardUp, which allows you to pay for your rent with your credit card and earn miles or cashback.
3. Your opinions on child-rearing
It is absolutely crucial to know your partner’s thoughts on children and, if you both decide to have them, to discuss what your approach to child-rearing will be. Will you pull out all the stops and spare no expense in giving your child the best possible education and opportunities in life, plus his own iPad and iPhone? Or will you have budget limits and expect your child to learn some independence? Also, how will child-rearing impact both your careers? Will one of you stay home for a number of years, or will one or both of you switch to less-demanding jobs to free up time for the demands of child-rearing?
4. Your lifestyle needs
It’s hard to know what someone’s lifestyle and spending habits are really like until you actually live together. Will you be able to accept the fact that your partner spends thousands of dollars on handbags, or that he or she insists on buying every single household item at Daiso to save money? If your partner insists on buying a car, will you be on board? What if your spouse-to-be insists on donating 10% of his/her income to a religious organisation?
5. Career plans
When you are married, your career decisions will directly or indirectly have an impact on the other party. So definitely have a chat about what your long-term career goals are. You want to know if your spouse-to-be is determined to sacrifice everything to claw his/her way up the career ladder, if his/her goal is to retire early or if there’s a radical career change somewhere in the works.
6. Long-term financial goals
As a married couple, when one person retires or withdraws from the workforce, the other will be affected. Discuss with your spouse your retirement plans. If you have similar goals, you can work together to achieve them even earlier. However, if your goals diverge wildly, you will need to discuss how to come to a compromise without killing each other—for instance, if you wish to retire early but your spouse wants to live a lavish lifestyle and let your children look after you, you’ve got a problem on your hands.
7. Needs of parents
Unless both sets of parents have planned very well for their own retirement and need no financial or physical assistance from either of you, you’ll need to discuss how much to contribute to each of your parents’ households, and what will happen in the event that any of the parents needs a caregiver. There are also lesser obligations that can give rise to conflict, such as whose family to spend Christmas or New Year with.
8. Extent to which you will merge your finances
It doesn’t make sense to count every single cent as a couple, but at the same time, you probably don’t want to merge your finances 100% if both of you are working. Open a joint account and decide how much to contribute each month. If that’s not an option, you will have to decide who contributes how much towards expenses like groceries, home loan repayments and so on.
9. Investments and assets
The savings and investments of one or both of you are going to be relevant to you as a household. If your spouse has zero savings, for instance, you want to know, since you’ll be the one bailing him or her out if he or she gets retrenched or has to stop work for whatever reason. It’s also fair if both of you are aware of assets such as property owned by the other party—this can, by the way, bar you from applying for an HDB flat together.
10. Financial liabilities
You may have to help to bail your partner out by dealing with financial liabilities on his or her behalf should something happen to his or her income. So you want to have an idea of what loan repayments your partner has to deal with, whether they be student loans, car loans or credit card debt. If there’s any chance at all that your partner can’t handle his or her debt and could go bankrupt, you also want to know sooner rather than later.
11. How you will deal with emergencies
Sure, you could get married and live out a peaceful existence as the couple of the century, with your brood of Instagrammable babies who are all going to grow up to become doctors and lawyers. But accidents and mishaps do happen, and you want to at least have an idea of how you’d handle forseeable ones.
For instance, in the event that either of you falls ill and needs to be hospitalised, you want to ensure you’ve got adequate medical insurance. Life insurance is also a must if you’ve got dependents like kids or aged parents.
Also assess the ability each of you to hold the fort and support the entire household if the other gets retrenched. If the answer is no, some downsizing might be necessary if one of you suddenly finds himself/herself out of work.
What are the most important thing couples need to discuss about their finances before they get married? Share your views in the comments!