5 Crucial Financial Questions You Should Be Asking Your Partner Before Marriage

Overspending, debt and poor credit are some financial deal breakers some couples can’t get past.


Do you have more deal breakers than you do deal makers when it comes to your relationships?

We often talk about dating potential, but for many of us, we substitute red flags early on for hope that falls into the should've/would've/could'ves, ultimately leading to larger issues that are detrimental to the relationship in the long run. While some factors contribute to us turning a blind eye, like clinginess, regular communication with an ex, and a combative attitude, other things are considered definitive turn-offs when it comes to dating. We get into the nitty-gritty when it comes to sex, as it's one of the most named determinants that turn both men and women off when not done right, but what about something we all have to deal with, but don't like to delve too much into?


In a new report, GOBankingRates administered a Google Consumer Survey for all 50 states and Washington D.C. where adults were asked to choose their biggest financial deal breaker. Categorized into six divisions–one party doesn't bring into sufficient income, overspending, poor credit, being secretive about finances, one party being too cheap, and having excessive debt. The results?

Residents in half of the states said that overspending would be their biggest deal breaker. This answer is followed by being secretive about finances, which residents of 19 states and the District chose as a top deal breaker, and too much debt, which was selected as the biggest deal breaker in 12 states. Lastly, for residents of just one state (New Hampshire), poor credit is the biggest financial red flag in a relationship.

In states where residents live paycheck-to-paycheck (Hawaii, California, and New York make the top 3), it's easy to see why a partner who overspends is noted as the top financial deal breaker, whereas states like Kansas, Mississippi, and New Jersey where residents are faced with the highest rates of poverty, have the lowest levels of financial knowledge, the largest credit card debts, and the highest rates of households that live beyond their means, avoid getting into a relationship where the person has too much debt to handle.

If you don't believe these things aren't of any significance in a relationship, guess again, with research showing disputes over finances oftentimes lead to breakups and divorce.

Sonya Britt, a Kansas State University researcher concluded that “arguments about money [are] by far the top predictor of divorce. It is not children, sex, in-laws, or anything else. It's money–for both men and women." That comes as a surprise to me, but money is so much of a big deal in relationships, that financial infidelity is actually a term used to describe couples who aren't forthright about their finances.

Time reports that 22% of husbands and wives have made purchases they didn't want their partner to know about; 35% of those who hid purchases kept quiet to avoid a lecture, and CreditCards.com conducted a survey that found 1 in 5 couples commit financial infidelity, with 6% of Americans (or 7 million out of 120) have a secret bank account or credit card that their spouse or partner isn't aware of. Out of those surveyed, here's what was found:

That number is heavily skewed toward men, with 26% of males reporting a hidden major purchase compared with only 14% of females. But it's not necessarily because men are more dishonest. A previous study showed they're simply more likely to make large impulse purchases than women, meaning guys may just be a little more freer with funds...a surprisingly high number of men–31%–are okay with their partners dropping more than half a grand without notice. Only 18% of women said the same.

Over the course of 11 years in my relationship, I can easily say disagreements on finances have been the most challenging, with me struggling with student loan debt, garnishment of my work wages and income taxes, to say the very least. Every little dime counts and having to scrape pennies together to make ends meet, while being involved with a man who wasn't the breadwinner, definitely added to an insurmountable level of stress in my home.

Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage, suggests something I wish I would have asked at the very beginning–or at least something my partner should have asked me–in order to ensure we were on the same wavelength when it came to money before life coached us in the right direction.

Crucial Questions To Ask A Potential Partner Before Marriage:

  • What kind and amount of debt would each partner carry into the relationship?
  • How will the debt be dealt with as legal partners?
  • Once you are partners in finance, what are your positions regarding how much debt is acceptable?
  • How many credit cards do you have in use?
  • Will you pool all your money together or have any separate accounts? What amount of savings do you each regard as acceptable?

There's even a financial compatibility test you should take to determine if you and your significant other are a money match. Living a financially double life affects both of parties. In an article for The Guardian, one writer accurately states what all couples should be asking before choosing to settle down.

You may need to decide if you can live with your partner's bad habits or not. Living with secrets, however, is another matter altogether...When you decide that you're going to combine your lives, talk openly about what it means to combine your finances.

Don Grant, a financial advisor at Carey, Thomas, Hoover & Breault Investments, goes on to say that he believes “a reason that these problems arise is that for so many years, we are independent and make our own money decisions," making it “hard for many of us to acknowledge that anyone else has a right to a say over that."

I wanted to pick the brains of three women to get their thoughts on how just how important are finances to them, how it affects their personal relationships and financial deal breakers. Check out their thoughts below.

I believe the right time to discuss finances and credit with your significant other is when you two start talking about moving in together, having children or getting married. It's incredibly important for me to know my significant other knows how to effectively manage his money now. But when he and I got together (I was 21, he was 19), I wasn't that smart. I wasn't thinking about anything like that. I was more concerned with who I had the most fun with, who made me laugh, who was good in bed, etc. We have both grown and made money management a priority, but only after suffering and making so many mistakes over the years. If I were single now, I wouldn't get serious with someone who refused to be candid with me about overspending, poor credit, or debt. Communication and growth are just way too important to me and if we can't know honestly where each other is financially, then how are we going to grow together? So, dishonesty and repeated recklessness are financial deal breakers for me. We all make mistakes, but making no effort to grow is a deal breaker. -
I had a bank account; he didn't. We kept a small hat and when he got a paycheck, in the hat it went. When I got mine, same deal. It was always our money. If I needed something, I would let him know and vice versa. We were very open about how much we made and if I found an extra dollar somewhere, it was ours.
I'm not sure how we got to that point, but we were always very open with everything else, so money was just another thing. He was nervous about getting a bank account because it was so easy to click opposed to actually getting the money out of your wallet and handing it over. This method helped us prioritize and I'm a frugal at heart, so I was glad with that decision. I still had my bank account, but we would literally put enough to pay bills once a month and let it rock with a minimum balance until the next cycle of bills. - GG Renee Hill
Last summer I left my job and we were back to the broke pair. My bank account was nil and the money we did get from his job was just enough for survival–nothing else. It was rough because our relationship suffered. I blamed him for not being man enough to sustain his family; he blamed me for the same. It was hard to see ourselves growing apart, but we understood that money was the issue.
We knew what had to be done, but had no way to fix it. We couldn't have conversations about it because it was that hard not to point the blame. Eventually when I started working again, in December, we had the sit down. I told him we needed our financial life together and I was recently reading articles about it being possible. He told me he just wants to save–saving for us to build our credit and saving for us to create a bed for Ryder. I watched my parents lose a lot without good credit and I barely made it into my apartment because of it and I needed that to change. We're on a road to financial recovery with a method of saving.
What was really important for us to keep in mind was that we needed to be on the same page. It is always a team effort and even when one is making more than the other, it's crucial to remember that teams win- solo acts don't. If we work together, we can learn how to build our finances together. - Stella
My husband and I met in college. We were both poor and both eagerly anticipating finishing school, graduate study and beginning our careers. The first few years, money was never discussed and when we moved in together, we realized that we should have been talking about it all along. I lucked out with him because when we began discussing finances, my husband was very knowledgable about credit and mortgages and basic household finances. Since my father was a CPA, I would call on him to give us basic advice about beginning to save and what steps we should be taking as young professionals, but I only asked for advice–I never disclosed details about the money in my home (never do that, keep your business in your house).
However, it was not always easy. Student loan debt, credit card debt from having to have a dream wedding, first job salaries, bills, all make saving extremely difficult, but it makes it easier when you marry a man who can be honest about his finances. We decided to have a joint savings account and separate checking accounts and thus far, money is never a concern because we contribute what we are supposed to and pay bills as a unit. If I could do it all over again, I would have discussed saving and financial goals from day one because not everyone is blessed enough to avoid that conversation and still work out. - Brittany

How do you approach the conversation on credit and what are some of your own financial deal breakers? Weigh in in the comment section below!

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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