Is it wrong to marry for money? Four crucial questions to ask before marrying someone bad with money
If marriage is about love, then divorce is all about money. Is it wrong to marry for money?
Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. You’d think that it’s something people would learn from but more than two-thirds (67%) of second marriages also end in divorce.
And one of the most common reasons couples claim as why things just didn’t work out, money.
Can you avoid the emotional pain of divorce by making sure you’re financially compatible with your partner? Should you let money differences get in the way of Cupid’s arrow?
Think Twice about Marrying Someone Bad with Money
A 2013 survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) found money issues as the third-highest cause of divorce in the United States, following only incompatibility and infidelity. It’s worth pointing out that the survey asked for the “main cause for divorce” so money issues could have factored in other break-ups without being the leading factor.
Another survey by researchers at Utah State University in 2003 found finances as the leading cause of argument between couples with 39% of respondents arguing regularly about money.
There are a lot of issues with money that go beyond just being able to pay the bills. There’s an emotional connection of money with safety and security that makes money issues a bigger problem than most people realize.
As easy as it is to get married, divorce that comes with money arguments is much more difficult and costly.
A litigated divorce can cost from $5,000 to $35,000 for each person according to the IDFA. Six-of-ten people under the poverty guidelines are divorced women or children of divorced parents. That’s to say nothing of the emotional damage for everyone involved.
I can’t tell you not to get married with someone that might not be financially-compatible. You probably wouldn’t listen to me anyway. I won’t fall back on clichés about fish in the sea and how you’ll be happier with someone you love AND with whom you agree on money issues.
What I will say is that everyone needs to ask four money questions before getting married. If those questions uncover money problems that might cause problems, you should think very carefully before tying the knot.
4 Critical Money Questions to Ask Before Getting Married
Every couple should ask these money questions before getting married, especially if they’ve argued about finances or suspect there are big differences in how each feel about money.
The answers to these questions don’t have to be relationship deal-breakers but you have to be honest with yourself, are these differences going to cause a problem in the future?
1) Who earns the most money in the relationship?
This question isn’t really about who earns more but about how that’s perceived by each. Some people have strong needs for fairness and may feel that someone not earning as much isn’t contributing as much. That’s probably a little unfair in itself, especially if it’s not the other person’s fault how much they make, but that’s just how some people feel.
Are you fine with making more or less than your partner? How do they feel about earning more or less? The partner earning less may think there’s nothing wrong with it and have no intention to raise their income.
Would you or your partner be willing to support the other if their earnings fell considerably, maybe while they go back to school for a better job?
2) Who spends the most money and on what?
Even more than how much you each make, you need to be on the same page when it comes to spending.
Does your partner already have significant debt from overspending? Do they spend on what you would call frivolous purchases? Do they earn more and think that should allow them to spend more even while they are more critical of your spending?
As with all the money questions, differences in spending don’t have to mean the end of the relationship but you do need to be aware of the differences and truly accept them or they’ll just end up causing problems.
3) What is each persons’ attitude on using credit?
This one relates to the spending question above but is also important on its own. Do you both perceive credit and borrowing in the same way?
Borrowing can be a big problem for couples where one partner sees interest charges as a financial burden while the other doesn’t see them as a big deal. If one partner opens the credit card statement every month and wonders why they are ‘working for the credit card company’ paying interest, there’s going to be some resentment in the relationship.
4) What are both partners’ long-term financial goals?
Most couples will talk about their long-term financial goals but not in the financial sense. They may talk about buying a home and where they want to live but not about how much it will cost to meet those goals.
Years after they’re married and they realize their goals might not be possible, that’s when the money arguments start.
Do your goals and your partner’s match up financially? Do you dream of living modestly in a cabin while they want yearly trips to the south of France? Do you like luxury cars while they think a Prius is a smarter decision?
There are many reasons why people marry, but one of the main ones is love. However, what happens when you fall in love with someone who has no money? Should you get married to them anyway because you love them or should you not even consider it because they can't provide for you? There are definitely pros and cons to this complicated situation.
They may be able to change. If your future spouse was once rich but lost all of their fortune due to bad financial decisions or risky investments, or if they were poor before but have since found a good job that makes good money, then it's possible that he or she could completely turn things around within a few years so you both have enough money to live comfortably. There are some people who are naturally good with money, while others learn how to be good with their finances over time through hard work and experience.
They know what it's like to struggle. One of the main reasons why some wealthy people remain that way is because they never had to face any true hardships growing up. This makes it difficult for them to understand your financial struggles after you get married because they have always had enough money in their lives – even when times got tough. However, if your future spouse grew up poor or was once rich but lost all of their fortune due to bad investments, then he or she knows exactly what it feels like to go without so they can probably relate more to your situation.
They have no savings. Unless your future spouse comes from a wealthy background, he or she almost certainly doesn't have much saved up for retirement. They may be working now but what if their job gets phased out by technology in the coming years? Or perhaps the company goes bankrupt and they have no work history to show they were ever there? If this happens, then it would be extremely difficult for them to find a new job.
They can't financially support you. Your spouse is responsible for bringing home the bacon so if he or she doesn't have any money coming in every month, then obviously you won't either. Even if your future husband or wife was once wealthy but lost their fortune due to bad investments or risky business ventures that didn't pan out, then it could still take years before they are able to get back into the game and start earning enough on their own again. That means you may need to go on working after getting married until they are on their feet again even though it's not fair for both of you to have to continue doing this.
Deciding whether or not to marry someone who's bad with money is difficult because there are both pros and cons involved. However, even though it may seem like marrying them would be a terrible idea, remember that they could very well change for the better in the months and years after getting married. It all depends on how determined they are to put forth effort into improving their situation so you can live comfortably together as husband and wife.
It’s fine if your financial goals don’t match up perfectly but is the money there to achieve them? One partner working and saving for their McMansion may start resenting a partner not saving enough to reach those goals.
With any luck and love, asking these money questions can bring you closer together as a couple. If they reveal issues that might become arguments after you’re married, can you resolve them before getting hitched? Nobody wants to think about areas of disagreement while they’re in love but these are important conversations to have with your partner.
Read the Entire Marriage and Money Series
- Guide To Setting Financial Goals In Marriage
- 7 Ways to Save Money [Save $500 a Month EASY!]
- 9 Money Questions Every Marriage Needs
- What Does the Bible Really Say About Money and Success?
- Road to Financial Freedom: Steps to Take to Be Financially Secure
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.