Apologies for the pidgin caption, but this is serious matter.
Until you attempt to build a life with someone else, you really can’t understand just how much money can affect a marriage. It’s not just about “no romance without finance”. To make marital bliss a reality, you need to be on the same page.
Here are 5 big money discussions you MUST have, in no particular order:
Debt: Before you get married, you both need to be honest about how much you owe and have a clear, workable plan to pay back. When Zee married Uche, she had no idea how complicated his financial history was. A few weeks into their marriage, he told her he was paying off a certain debt, so he couldn’t contribute financially for a while. Three years later, Zee is still paying the house rent and school fees, in addition to feeding the family. She has bought two cars, both of which he has sold, for said debt. Yet there is no end in sight. The role of “fool for love” she’s playing is another article entirely, but the point here is, financial history must be discussed before marriage to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Joint accounts: Joint accounts are not so much about money as they are about perception of roles. Some see a man who is keen on a joint account as a man who cannot provide for his family, and wants to live off his wife. For others, it is simply a symbol of true unity. Would you like to have an account for your needs so that you don’t have to tell somebody every time you need to buy something? Do you believe that a couple cannot be truly one unless they share an account? You should both be in agreement otherwise you will run into serious trouble along the way.
Childcare costs: If both parents work outside the home, who pays for the crèche or nanny? Again, the cost of childcare is not always financial. If one parent has to stay at home to raise the kids while the other works, the loss of income is not the only issue. “My brain is dying,” Nkay, a mother of two toddlers says. “I love my kids, but I miss having a job badly.” Her husband Chike insists he makes “enough” and pays a “salary” into her account every month. It is a tidy sum, but for her, work is about more than money, and she is also paying a price. Some women, on the other hand, would totally love this. It’s best to reach an agreement before the kids come.
Spending styles: Sophia works a stressful job and would like to quit, especially since she and Duke are actively trying to conceive. Duke, however, doesn’t think they can afford it for now. I ask Sophia if this is because he isn’t making enough to handle the family expenses by himself yet. “Not at all Joy,” she says. “It’s just that I’m a spendthrift and we both know it. I must have 100 pairs of shoes, God have mercy on me. I’m also generous to a fault.” Aha. Duke isn’t worried about taking care of the bills by himself, as much as he is about being able to pay for the shoes, bags, dresses, Brazilian hair, and jewelry his wife spends money on so often. Also, there are people who believe in saving for the future, while some want to enjoy their money now, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. Compromise and agreement are key words.
Extended family: People often joke about certain ethnic groups sending a younger sibling along with a new bride for her to “train”, but the truth is that everyone will be called to respond to extended family needs at some point or the other, regardless of tribe. In fact for some, parents and siblings do not come under “extended”, they are family, period. How you both feel about needy family members matters. If you cannot agree, you can at least come to a compromise. I once dated a guy who didn’t like the idea of me sending a monthly allowance to my mum. I was perplexed, as it was even a tiny amount compared to what I would have loved to give her, and it was from my own salary. “What if she now gets used to it?” he asked. Let’s just say we did not get to discuss my brother’s school fees which I was (and still am) also paying, because no need.
Two cannot walk together except they are in agreement. Have these talks before committing to marriage, and make sure you’re truly walking hand in hand.