One of the most popular questions I get from clients and readers is this: how should we combine finances after we get married? And to be honest, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. But it’s an important question to answer for yourself and your spouse. How exactly you approach this subject will depend on you and your partner, but these are the things you should do to figure it out.
Talk, Talk, Talk
I hope you had the money talk before you got married, but if not, you must do it now. Money touches every area of our lives, so it’s imperative to talk about it with our partners. Talk about how your parents dealt with money while you were growing up. Talk about what fears, habits, and beliefs that created in your life. Talk about any money mistakes you’ve made it the past. Talk about your money habits and if and when you go overboard with your spending. Once you do this, you can be open and honest in your approach to managing money together.
If you’re going to be sharing your life, you should be transparent about what that life includes. That means getting really honest about any debt that either of you owe, any big money mistakes you’ve made in the past, and more. You should both share
Set Joint Goals
Money is much easier to talk about when you frame it around your goals. It reminds you why you’re sticking to a budget, which makes it more motivating, and sometimes easier. Setting joint goals is even more important, so that you both know what you’re working towards. It also will allow you to act as a team when it comes to your money, because …
Decide If/How to Combine Accounts
Every couple handles money differently. Gone are the days when the husband earned the money and handled all the financial decisions. Gone are the days when women weren’t even allowed to have their own bank accounts. Now, as marriages look different than they used to, and women are becoming the main breadwinners, there are more options for handling money.
I personally like to have some of my own money. I think it’s important to at least have your own personal emergency savings account in case you need to leave a relationship. For Dan and me, we each have our own checking and savings accounts, but we also have joint accounts. Most of our expenses and spending come out of our joint accounts, but we also have our own money to use as we please.
Assign the Money Point Person
Who is going to be the one to pay the bills? Whose name is going to be on the accounts? Sometimes, there is an obvious person who is more financially inclined or organized. Or perhaps, one of you hates managing money less than the other. Maybe there are ways to split up the money tasks. Make sure it’s an open conversation with a clear, defined plan so that no one is confused or resentful afterwards.
Set Some Ground Rules
This isn’t a step to take in order to control your partner. But you should both be on the same page about what is acceptable or not. Is there a sum of money that is too large to make the purchase unilaterally? How do you want to approach each other to discuss a large purchase? How to do you want to make decisions about household income and expenses?
Meet With a Financial Expert
Dan and I recently met with a friend of mine who is a financial planner. Yes, I’m a financial coach but I’m not an investment expert, nor do I know much about things like life insurance. Now that we’re getting married, I wanted to make sure we’re on the right track financially. This is especially true since I’m not putting as much away for retirement this year, as I’ve taken a big pay cut by quitting my day job. I wanted to make sure I’d still be secure in the future while taking a break for a year or two. We got great advice for retirement savings, and learned a lot about life insurance. I feel a lot more confident and secure about our
Have Regular Money Dates
Just like you can’t set and forget a budget, you can’t set and forget joint financial goals. You have to check in and make sure things are still on track, and see if there are any tweaks that need to be made. Set up a regular day and time that you will sit down with your partner and review your finances. Go over your banking and credit card statements, compare those to the budget that you set up. Is there anything that isn’t working? Does anything need to be tweaked? Chances are, the answer is yes!
Be realistic when you schedule these dates. Don’t plan on having the conversation on Sunday evening if you know you’re always scrambling to prepare for the week and will likely skip the conversation. Perhaps you can pair the date with something fun, or give yourselves a reward after you have the conversation. Continuing to do this will keep you open and transparent about money, and will allow you to make changes when needed.