Let’s face it—marriage is a huge step.
There is a lot that goes into making a relationship work, and finances can often bog a couple down.
That’s why it is important to be up-front about money matters.
To many, managing finances separately seems to be the most logical choice in skirting stress, but in fact, it can irritate the issue.
Making any and all financial decisions together is the key to avoiding any mishaps, personal or financial.
1. Have the Money Talk
The first conversation newlyweds should have (financially—the rest is not really my business) should be regarding personal accounts and any debt you have. When you apply for a mortgage, the bank runs a credit report on both of you, so if one spouse has bad credit, it will negatively affect the loan.
This information is particularly important because it will serve as the foundation upon which you will set your financial goals. And while it may not be the most fun or pleasant, you should list assets like checking and savings accounts, 401(k)s, stock or bond investments, real estate, jewelry and other valuables in their portfolios.
If you can, get a financial professional to manage this portfolio, because it is important that you lay out where you stand financially as a couple, and what your expectations for each other are, and what your mutual goals are for the next ten years.
For example, start discussing how your finances will factor into your personal goals. Do you want to retire by a certain age, or go back to school? Do you want to take care of your debt immediately? Make a plan about these goals and prioritize. Making a budget or hiring a financial planner is a good way to help you reach these financial goals.
2. Factor in expenses.
What do you need, and what can you do without for now?
Vehicles, houses, and entertainment expenses tend to drain savings the most.
Cars are essentially a money pit—they constantly decrease in value, require money for maintenance, and let’s not forget funds for fuel.
If you and your spouse can do without a vehicle (or two if you both have one), maybe it’s time to sell and look into options such as public transportation or carpooling.
If this is not a realistic option, perhaps the two of you can share a vehicle.
Either way, this will help cut down on your costs, and allow you to save some money.
Below is a sample calculator that newlyweds can use to better determine their household expenses.
In addition, couples often lose money by going out too often. If you find yourselves trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” so to speak, really assess how much of your funds you’re utilizing. If you’re going out to eat twice a week or more, chances are you are wasting a good portion of your potential savings. Instead, little things like preparing more meals at home or having a movie night at home rather than going out can make a big difference.
Finally, there is no harm in starting small when you are looking for a home. Be modest in your search; a little elbow grease is nothing compared to a staggering mortgage payment.
3. Managing it Together
Now it’s time to start talking about how to manage all of your new savings. For example, will you have a joint checking account? Two savings accounts and a joint checking? Questions like this need to be asked and openly discussed, without procrastinating. On one hand, a joint bank account keeps managing all of your money convenient. There is no question where your money is, and can each pay bills as they come, without necessarily assigning specific bills to one another.
On the other hand, this can lead to miscommunication, and a bill can go unpaid. A joint bank account requires complete trust and cooperation, with both parties willing to check in occasionally with common expenses. Make sure you are ready for this, but remember, there are other options.
Finding a combination that works best for you and your partner is all part of the newlywed game, so be patient, and know that getting financially efficient and settled takes time.
Just remember, the key to success is cooperation, and both parties need to come to a comfortable understanding of budgets, responsibilities, and future goals. Whether this requires a weekly meeting, or simply a mutual promise to contribute and help out, it is important that both people are on board. Money is often a sensitive subject for married couples, but it doesn’t have to be, and creating the kind of environment where each partner can converse is step one.
I would recommend having the “finance talk” before the nuptials. Go in with a good understanding of where you stand and where you want to go as a couple. Surprises after the “I do’s” just adds to the already whirl wind of getting married.
Great article…my wife and I after 3 years have definitely settled into a great routine that works out well. She is in charge of paying the bills and I am in charge of strategy/system. We both have our spending limits at around $500 with no consultation (not hard and fast but its a decent guideline).
This article is super helpful! The “money talk” is something that can’t be avoided since, when you do get married, each person’s financial history affects each other’s records. The calculator is very helpful as well. Will definitely need to share this article. Thanks so much for sharing these tips with us!
This is an awesome post. Thanks for sharing. My boyfriend and I have started to have the financial conversation. This gave me much needed insight! Thanks again!
Great article, I’d almost suggest going even further in terms of discussing attitudes to investment, early retirement and financial goals. Getting alignment on some of the big picture visions will help ensure that you’re both rowing together instead of in separate directions.
Lot’s of good tips in this post. My wife and I decided to combine all of our finances together when we got married. We believe we became one in marriage and our finances should to. I think one person in most relationships tends to emerge as the CFO, but both should participate in the overall management of the finances. While I track our expenses in budgeting software, we work together to set goals and review our budget regularly. I still feel like managing the family finances is like running a small business. It’s not easy, but worthwhile to go at it together.
These are great tips. This was something my husband and I talked about before we were married. We rarely argue, and when we do it’s not about money!
I couldn’t agree more. My fiancee and I went to a counselor shortly after getting engaged and took a compatibility test so we could work on any potential issuers now (rather than later… which might mean when it’s time for a divorce…) Fortunately we’re 100% in agreement on financial matters, and we have a few new ideas on how to communicate better on other things.
Definitely talk about money as much as you can (okay, not literally, but often). We try and talk about our goals and what we want out of everything.