Not long ago, I received an email from a young lady who asked me whether I think it's appropriate to discuss finances before marriage - matters such as earnings, savings, debts, loans, and so on. My answer: absolutely! I would say it's not only appropriate, but advisable.
I know many women are reluctant to talk about finances with their suitors, out of fear of seeming greedy and materialistic. Yet there's a distinction between seeking only men who earn a lot, and looking for a financially responsible husband who is willing to provide for his family.
Consider that your husband will be the man whom you count on to provide for you and any future children you might have, the man whose leadership you are supposed to trust in all areas, including finances. Money will inevitably remain a part of life - and therefore, young people shouldn't be too shy to find out about things such as debts, spending habits, and lifestyle expectations, and make sure you are on the same page - before marriage.
Financial decisions made by either spouse before marriage will impact both. I'm not saying you should not marry someone who happens to carry a large debt - but keep in mind that once you get married, you will not be able to step aside and say, "this is your debt, honey, you pay it off and leave me out of it". It will influence your life, whether you want it or not. For example, if you aspire to be a full-time wife and mother, this might not be possible for a while if your husband has debt to pay. Again, I'm not saying, don't get married because of something like this - just wanted to point out it's a factor to consider.
Unwise spending habits is something even more crucial to find out as soon as possible. If you see your potential spouse can't resist frivolous spending, and/or can't hold a steady job, don't expect a change after marriage. Sometimes, lifestyle expectations are irreconcilable - for example, one of the spouses dreams of organic farming, sustainability, and making it on one small income, while the other thinks a couple should have two incomes, one of which is dedicated to "treats" and luxury items.
No Orthodox Jewish marriage happens without a pre-nuptial agreement. It's called a ketubah, and includes all the duties of the husband towards his wife, such as financial support and marital relations. It also includes a sum of compensation the husband will give the wife in case of divorce. The ketubah is signed in front of witnesses, and is read aloud during the wedding ceremony. Without a ketubah, the marriage isn't considered valid. The ketubah has served as protection to Jewish women for many years, and I think it's a wonderful custom. We may be called pragmatic and materialistic, but again, money is a part of life.
In the realm of finances, I believe that a wife can and should gently offer her opinion, especially if the husband is interested in her counsel. However, the wife should also stand behind her husband's financial decisions, and once he has his mind set on something, she would be wise to support him and trust his judgment. My husbands consults with me every time before making (or deciding not to make) a major purchase, but if I see he is already set on it, I simply tell him - I trust that you know what is best for our family. Some men are less than wise financially, or have spending habits that are incompatible with supporting a family, or can't hold a job - which brings me back to the first part: if you want to feel protected under your husband's leadership in all matters, do talk about finances before marriage!