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Couples Quiz: 5 Financial Questions for a Long-Lasting Relationship

February 14, 2019

MOST COUPLES KNOW they should open up about their saving and spending habits, any debt they may owe, and their financial goals and priorities at the beginning of a serious relationship. But they often forget that it’s important to keep talking about money as their relationship matures.

Over the years, priorities will change, and new financial challenges and opportunities will appear. “Getting on the same page about money isn’t a once-and-done thing,” says Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “One of the secrets to a successful relationship is keeping the money conversation going.” Use the questions below as your guide.

 

 

Click + after each question to get our insights

 

Do you have a plan to resolve financial disagreements?

“Even if one of you earns more than the other, it’s important to treat each other as equal partners.” —Debra Greenberg, director, Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

When things get heated, it can help to remind yourselves that you’re both on the same team. “Even if one of you earns more than the other, it’s important to treat each other as equal partners,” says Debra Greenberg, director, Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Approaching your finances as a team can help meld different spending and investing styles necessary to achieve your shared financial goals.” That doesn’t mean you can’t keep separate accounts. Just set aside a time each month to review your combined assets and liabilities and talk about whether you’re on track to meet the goals you’ve set out for your future together. Some couples, adds Greenberg, agree to stick to individual spending limits—and consult their partners before going over them.

 

Check out “The Newlyweds’ Financial Guide” for more insights.

 

What are you both saving and investing for?

“Having regular check-ins is important. All the plans you make can be quickly upended by new jobs, new expenses and new babies.”—Debra Greenberg, director, Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Early in your relationship, sit down together and draft a list of the top goals you both want to achieve over the next five, 10 or 20 years, making sure those goals are both fair and manageable. They might include such things as paying off credit-card debt, saving for a home, continuing your education, traveling the world, or starting a business. “From there, it’s important to review your progress on a regular basis,” says Debra Greenberg, director, Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Having regular check-ins is important. All the plans you make can be quickly upended by new jobs, new expenses and new babies," she adds. At some point, you might want to consider talking to a financial advisor who can help you manage your finances, monitor your progress and stay on track.

 

Use the “Life Goals Assessment Tool” to help you identify your top priorities.

 

Planning a family? Are you prepared financially for parenthood?

“Saving as early as possible with a 529 savings plan could help you set aside money for your children’s education, while reducing potential future borrowing.”—Richard Polimeni,Director, Education Savings Programs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

From diapers to daycare, dental bills to college tuition, 90% of parents are surprised by how much more they spend after becoming parents, according to the recent Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study The Financial Journey of Modern Parenting: Joy, Complexity and Sacrifice. But there are other equally important considerations, including the financial values you hope to share with your children and how to teach them about sound money management. A key financial decision is when to begin putting money away for your children’s education.

 

“Saving as early as possible with a tax-efficient 529 savings plan could help you set aside money for your children’s education, while reducing potential future borrowing,” says Richard Polimeni, Director, Education Savings Programs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Some parents open an account in their own name before their child is born, and then update the beneficiary to the child’s name after the birth.”

 

Check out “The Things They Never Tell First-time Parents” for more insights.

 

What does retirement mean to you?

“Make this conversation part of an annual heart-to-heart about your life together—where you are and where you hope to be.”—Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Creating a blueprint for a shared life after work can help you answer that question, suggests Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Start by having each of you jot down a list of what you want from life in retirement. How long will each of you work? Where will you live? How do you want to spend your time? Will travel or volunteering play a large part? Then review and update your lists every year. "Make this conversation part of an annual heart-to-heart about your financial life together—where you are and where you hope to be." says Sabbia.

 

As you get closer to retirement, have some long talks to work out the differences between your two lists of retirement aspirations and figure out a plan for accommodating each of your most important priorities. "Examining the financial impact of different retirement dates or the cost of a specific pursuit can help you begin to see what’s possible—and what trade offs you may have to make," Sabbia adds.

 

Read “5 Retirement Questions Every Couple Should Ask and Answer” for more insights.

 

How do you hope to be remembered?

“Planning your legacy isn’t just about the money you leave behind. It’s about the values you’ve shared, the memories you’ve made—and the steps you’ve taken to prepare your loved ones for a time when you will no longer be here.”—Kevin Hindman, national trust executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

You and your partner may have differing views about the legacy you hope to leave: What will you contribute to the causes that are important to you? How much will your kids inherit? Some couples like the idea of passing along an inheritance to their children while they are still alive so they can be there to enjoy helping them pursue their dreams. Others may want to involve their children and grandchildren in making charitable gifts together through a donor-advised fund or a trust.

 

“But planning your legacy isn’t just about the money you leave behind,” says Kevin Hindman, national trust executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “It’s about the values you’ve shared, the memories you’ve made—and the steps you’ve taken to prepare your loved ones for a time when you will no longer be here.” Putting documents in place to ensure that your wishes are honored regarding your medical care and financial decisions can make life easier for those you love. And communicating your wishes to your family in advance is equally important: 87% of Americans over 55 say it’s the responsibility of parents to have that conversation with their children, according to Leaving a Legacy: A Lasting Gift to Loved Ones, a recent Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study.

 

Check out How Do You Want to Be Remembered? for more insights on how to plan your legacy.

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