Before the "I Do" - Know What You Own & Owe

You and your fiance know everything about each other like your favorite ice creams, pet peeves, and weird habits, but how well do you know each others' assets and liabilities? Before you say "I do," it's important to have the money talk(s). In this series, we'll cover all the important discussion topics engaged couples, and even married couples, should be having. After all, it's not a secret that money has been cited as one of the leading stress factors in a marriage. So why not get on the same page from the beginning?

Here's a few questions to help guide the "Know What You Own & Owe" conversation:


(think of an asset as something you tangibly own that technically could be sold for cash, hopefully at a price higher than what you purchased it for)

  • How much do you make? (for all the accounting nerds like me, yes I know, your salary isn't an asset you'd put on a balance sheet, but knowing income streams is still equally important in this conversation) 
  • Are you paid regularly or by commission? 
  • Do you own any property? How much did you buy it for and what is it worth now?
  • Do you own/lease your car? 
  • How much do you have saved? (i.e. can touch the money if you needed to)
  • How much do you have saved for retirement? (i.e. can't touch the money now)


(read: debt and things you owe)

  • Do you have any student loans outstanding? 
  • Do you have any credit card debt? (follow-up question: Do you have a strategy to pay it down?)
  • Do you have a car payment? 
  • What's your credit score? {Buzzfeed partnered with Experian to create this really fun yet eye-opening video: "Engaged Couples Reveal Their Credit Scores"}
  • Do you have a mortgage?
  • If you own a business, how much debt does the business owe? 
  • Are there any major financial events from the past (divorce/alimony/child support, bankruptcy, etc.)? 

Many couples may feel uncomfortable being so direct and open about money issues, but it's important to have the hard conversations so that expectations can be managed, and to prevent unexpected surprises (and arguments) in the future.