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Choosing a Spouse: How To Find Financial Wisdom in Your Significant Other

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Jamie Mountford Article August 4th

My husband and I have high hopes for our kids’ future spouses. I know this seems like a funny thing to say, since they are only young teenagers now. 

But we have actually been coaching them on what to look for in a spouse for years. We figure it’s never too early for them to learn what is most attractive—not looks, not popularity, not even necessarily intelligence level—but financial wisdom.

Okay, teenagers are not usually the most financially wise people in the world, but we hope to instill values that will lead to financial wisdom in the future. Since the most common cause of marital strife is fighting about money, we want to save our kids from that fate. 

So what advice do we give them? The same 6 principles I am about to tell you. Whether you are still looking for a mate or are about to get married, these ideas can take you and your life partner far along the road of marital bliss. 

The Big 6 Financial Wisdom Traits to Look for in a Spouse

1. Current Debt Load 

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you marry the debt load your spouse brings. Talk about things like student loans, mortgage payments, car loans, and credit card debt before you get married. Any marriage counselor will tell you that the burden of debt can ruin a relationship. 

If your future spouse has a large debt load, explore ways to bring it down quickly. Can one of you take on a side hustle for extra money? Can you consolidate debt to lower payments and interest rates? Can you sell something—like a house or car—and live more simply for a while? 

The first financial goal should be to build up a 6-month emergency fund, but after that, make debt disappear before your love does.

2. Life Goals 

You sit, goggly-eyed over lattes, dreaming about your future plans together. While you do that, listen—really listen—to what your lover is saying. 

Does he or she plan to continue in school for many more years to snag a worthy career, or to get a degree that will not be worth the thousands of dollars spent? 

Does your future spouse have aspirations of entrepreneurship? That is a great way to have ownership over schedules and lifestyle, but it also can mean many years of long hours for little pay. Don’t bail over it—but do discuss now how you would weather the lean years. 

Is your future spouse the free spirit type, with no financial aspirations at all? That may seem romantic now, but trust me, once you have a mortgage and 2 kids, it will just be annoying as you slog alone to make ends meet. Unless you both have the same free spirited goals, beware. 

3. Childish Spending Habits 

I may touch a nerve here, but I am so not impressed with how young people (and old for that matter) waste so much money on stuff they don’t need. While you are scouting out a mate, pay attention to his or her spending habits.

Does he have every toy—motorcycle, gaming system, fancy car? Does she spend every weekend shopping for new clothes or getting manicures? 

These are what I call childish spending habits. When loads of money are spent on extravagant dates, fancy belongings, and instant gratification, you can be sure there is no Minority Mindset. 

The occasional splurge is way different than the regular occurrence. If your potential life partner has childish spending habits now, it may be hard to break them later. 

4. Dangerous Spending Habits

This one goes much deeper than the childish spending habit. While childish spending habits are wasteful, dangerous spending habits can affect the health and safety of you and your spouse. 

If you find out that your loved one is addicted to gambling, drugs, alcohol, even smoking, help them seek counseling, recovery groups, and professional medical advice before it is too late. 

These habits are terribly expensive, not only to the wallet but to the soul. Do not think it will go away on its own. If your mate will not seek help to break the habit, do not become the enabler by continuing the relationship. As painful as that sounds, you will be better off alone.

5. Practical Skills

This is the advice I give my daughter every time something breaks in our house. My husband is super handy and has saved us tens of thousands of dollars in repairs over the years. 

Some practical skills are essential to maintaining a home; others are super bonuses that can save money on big projects. Look for a spouse who has at least some practical skills to contribute to the household. 

This can actually be a fun thing to do together. Take classes, watch YouTube videos, learn through your local tech school—whatever it takes to provide basic home maintenance, cooking, and vehicle care. 

Don’t be like some friends of ours who have to hire a handyman to hang pictures on the wall. Sigh.

6. Activity Level

Okay, one more touchy subject. If your potential mate spends all of his or her spare time parked on the couch watching TV or playing video games, he or she may not be the most ambitious individual in the world. 

Again, moderation is key. Relaxing with a movie or game is not criminal, but if it interferes with someone’s ability to contribute financially to the home, well…

If you want to really break away from the typical American cycle of living paycheck-to-paycheck with little savings or investments, then you want to spend your life with someone like-minded. 

Someone who is just as excited about being financially proactive—ready to work hard to achieve goals early in life. Someone who lives the Minority Mindset.

Passing the Test

Check out your potential mate. Stand back and examine his or her spending habits, practical skills, life goals, and debt. Look at how you spend your time together, and how you spend it apart. 

And now look inside. Every one of these 6 financial wisdom traits should be found in you, too. If you are lacking in one or more, work on it now. Your future spouse will be so grateful. 

Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.

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