Are You Financially Compatible? 5 Questions to Ask Before Getting Engaged

Jen Williamson Updated on May 6, 2019

Are you thinking about getting engaged? Have you had the talk yet? 

You know … the money talk. It’s awkward, right? But let me tell why you should do it anyway ... because it's a conversation I wish I hadn't avoided.


A few years ago, I was in a serious relationship with someone who had tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. I had almost no debt myself. We talked about getting engaged.

I had questions about how we would merge finances and deal with my partner’s debt; questions I mainly kept to myself. I was never comfortable bringing up our uneven debt—I felt as if I was introducing cold-eyed calculation into a situation where love was supposed to overcome everything.

There were many reasons we never got married—and debt wasn’t one of them. But that was because we never talked about it, not because we figured out a solution together.

Looking back, I realize that I should have asked those tough questions, because once you get married, your partner’s financial burdens become yours.

Here are a few awkward financial questions I wish I’d asked. 

 1. What are your goals in general?

Sometimes it’s easier to open a conversation about finances by talking about your hopes and dreams in more general terms. Goals like retiring early, opening a business, going back to school, traveling, having kids, buying a house, or moving to another place all involve major financial commitments.

Having a clear-eyed discussion about both partners’ goals can open the door to talking about your financial circumstances—and the steps you’ll need to take to make those goals happen.

 2. What are your thoughts about handling finances as a couple?

Every couple does it differently. Some completely merge their finances and some keep them totally separate. Others take a hybrid approach, keeping their own accounts as well as a joint account for bills.

This is true for debt as well; some couples pay off loans together, while others handle their debt individually. There’s no right or wrong way, but it’s important to talk through your expectations.

3. How much debt do you have?

So yeah … this can be a hard one to ask. But buck up your courage and ask anyway because this question is really important.

In most circumstances, you will not be held responsible for your spouse’s student loan debt. There are exceptions, however, such as student loans your spouse takes out while you’re married—if you live in a community property state. You’ll also be responsible for any loans you co-sign.

Even if you won’t be held legally accountable for repaying your spouse’s student debt, those loans will affect your financial life and freedom when you marry. A large student loan balance could make it more difficult to take on more debt or to make other financial commitments on the way to pursuing your dreams.

Most people don’t realize they can refinance student loan debt to bring their monthly payment down—and free up more money every month to put toward other financial goals. This may be a good option to explore as a couple. 

While you’re talking about debt, don’t forget to ask about credit debt, car loans, money owed to family members, or any other financial obligations.

Imagine Life Without a Student Loan Payment... Start Saving Now!

4. Are you a saver or a spender?

Often, conflicts over money come down to this question.

One partner never wants the family to go without; the other wants to build a firm financial safety net. Neither one is wrong—but if you have limited resources, where do you put your priorities?

Relationships between savers and spenders can work quite well—but they require open communication and, sometimes, renegotiation of the rules as your finances change.

5. How much money do you make? 

This can be a very awkward question—but it’s essential to get the full picture of what your revenue situation would be like once you’re married.

Is there a big income disparity between you? If you make more, would you be willing to help your partner pay off a student loan? Should the higher earner between you put more toward monthly bills?

You can’t head off every conflict by having a conversation about it beforehand, but it’s crucial to get a clear picture of your partner’s financial situation before joining forces. Talking through these issues will help you develop strategies to meet both of your financial goals—and make you stronger as a couple.

Whether you're in a couple or going solo, it's always a good idea to get a head start on shoring up your finances. See how much you could save by refinancing your student loans. 

Published in: Personal Finance, Refinance

About the Author
Jen Williamson

Jen Williamson is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. She has written for a variety of industries, including software, education, business, and personal finance. Prior to that, she worked at an adult literacy nonprofit in Philadelphia, where she coached nontraditional students in passing the GED test and applying for college. When she isn’t writing or reading—which is rare—she can usually be found planning her next travel adventure, training for a marathon, or sneaking in somewhere she’s not supposed to be. Read more by Jen Williamson

Refinance and Save Today With These Lenders

#1 - Nitro Recommended View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • Fixed rates: 2.49% - 6.31% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.88% - 6.15% APR
  • Minimum credit: 650
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 2.49% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

#2 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • Fixed rates: 2.83% - 6.74% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.99% - 6.84% APR
  • Minimum credit: 660
View More Details
Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#3 View More Details

SoFi is the leading student loan refinancing provider. 

  • Fixed rates: 2.74% - 6.94% APR
  • Variable rates: 2.25% - 6.59% APR
  • Minimum credit: 650
View More Details
Visit SoFi View Loan Disclosure

$30 billion+ in refinanced student loans. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, there's no maximum on the amount you can finance. Some state restrictions may apply.

  • Serious savings: Save thousands of dollars thanks to flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.
  • No hidden fees, no catch: No application or origination fees. No pre-payment penalties.
  • Fast, easy, and all online: Simple online application and access to live customer support 7 days a week.
  • Access to member benefits: SoFi members get career coaching, financial advice, and more—all at no cost.
  • 98% of surveyed members would recommend SoFi to a friend

Save thousands on your student loans and pay off your loans sooner. Find your rate.

#4 View More Details

Ability to apply for cosigner release after 24 consecutive payments. 

View More Details
Visit NelNetBank View Loan Disclosure

Give Your Life’s Journey a Jump-Start.

If you’re ready to put student loans in your rearview mirror, Nelnet Bank student loan refinancing offers low rates and flexible terms to help you start getting ahead.

  • VARIABLE RATES: 1.95% - 5.63% APR See Disclaimer
  • FIXED RATES: 2.55% - 5.59% APR See Disclaimer
  • AUTO DEBIT SAVINGS: We’ll knock .25% off of your interest rate when you enroll in auto debit. See Disclaimer
  • NO ORIGINATION FEES: No application, origination, or prepayment fees on Nelnet Bank loans.
  • HARDSHIP PROTECTION: Hardship forbearance helps protect against unexpected loss of income. See Disclaimer

See How Much You Can Save: Estimate your savings with a student loan refinance from Nelnet Bank.

#5 View More Details

Works with 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances

  • Fixed rates: 2.95% - 7.63% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.90% - 5.25% APR
  • Minimum credit: 660
View More Details
Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

Connecting student borrowers to a network of over 300 community lenders with low interest rates. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#6 View More Details

Best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast.

View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#7 View More Details

16 different loan term options – more flexibility to pay down your loan faster

  • Fixed rates: 3.24% - 5.54% APR
  • Variable rates: 3.34% - 5.69% APR
  • Minimum credit: 680
View More Details
Visit CollegeAve View Loan Disclosure

College Ave Student Loans offers major help and minor stress. We’ll help guide you through the process to find the right loan term and interest rate for you and the family budget.

  • Fast rate check: Get your new rate in 60 seconds 
  • Instant credit decision
  • Super flexible terms: 16 loan terms available from 5 to 20 years
  • No fees to apply

Click here to see more College Ave offerings and to start saving today! 


I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

Save Money Now