Finance…It may almost rhyme with romance, but that’s where the association ends for many newlyweds. When you’re basking in the honeymoon phase, hashing out household finances may strike you as a serious buzzkill. As it turns out, quite the opposite is true. Getting on the same page financially can make a positive difference that carries throughout your marriage. A recent study reveals that 87% of couples who describe their marriage as “great” also work together on money goals.
Our Love and Money blog post provided financial planning tips that apply to all couples. Now we’re tackling the topic with tips specifically for those who just tied the knot:
LAY THE GROUNDWORK…ASAP!
Explore your money backgrounds. Ideally, you and your significant other began to talk about your money styles and priorities as soon as you realized your relationship was getting serious. If not, it’s time to get started. When you were growing up, did money represent arguments and struggle or was your household financially stable? How much of your income do you save vs spend? How do you make decisions about money? When you understand how you and your spouse think about money, it’s easier to come up with a plan that considers both your priorities.
Establish money talk as an important, regular part of your relationship. Schedule time to plan, track your progress, and be accountable, especially as you tackle your newlywed to-do list.
Get everything out on the table. It’s common to suffer anxiety over talking about money, especially if you carry debt. Nix all finger pointing. You’re a team. The quickest way to your reach goals is to start out with a realistic, detailed picture of your finances right now.
NEWLYWEDS FINANCIAL BASICS CHECKLIST
✓ Determine your net worth. Total up your assets (bank accounts, investments, property) and subtract your debts (credit card balances, student loans, car notes).
✓ Set joint financial goals. Include major items such as home-buying and retirement savings as well as shorter-term goals such as vacations and holiday spending.
✓ Change your tax status. You’ll need to choose “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” Many factors determine which is best, including income disparity between spouses, itemized deductions, and medical expenses. For complex situations, it may make sense to consult a tax pro.
✓ Review insurance policies. For both medical and renters/homeowners’ insurance, determine which of you has the better deal in price and coverage. Determine if it makes sense to cancel one policy and consolidate.
✓ Develop a debt repayment strategy – Each spouse is legally responsible for repaying the debt he/she accrued before marriage, but that financial burden can affect your credit rating and borrowing power as a couple. The longer you carry debt, the more it takes away income from your future financial goals.
✓ Make a will. If you already have one, adjust it to include your spouse as appropriate. It’s the best way to ensure that assets transition smoothly to your spouse when you pass. If you or your partner have significant assets, you may need estate planning beyond a will.
✓ Make your spouse the beneficiary for key financial accounts like insurance policies and retirement accounts.
Now, for the big one that will help you save & spend wisely together:
✓ Create a budget. It’s the best way to shift your mindset from your single spending habits to working as a team. Here’s a quick set of steps to get you started:
- List your incomes and household expenses/debt repayments.
- Don’t forget bills such as insurance premiums and quarterly taxes that may not be due on a monthly basis.
- Decide what you’ll do with the money left after bills are paid. That includes savings and discretionary spending.
BONUS TIPS: Here are some ways that make budgeting easier:
- Open his/hers/ours bank accounts. Your joint checking account can cover household bills. Budget a set amount that each of you can deposit in separate checking accounts and spend as you wish.
- Identify what spending threshold should involve a conversation or joint decision. There is no need for your spouse to approve every dime you spend, but large ticket purchases should be discussed.
- Make adjustments as you gain experience. Test run your budget for three months. Reevaluate, adjust, and repeat as needed.
Merging money after marriage offers a golden opportunity to start out financially strong. If you’re unsure or overwhelmed by your to-do list, FJY Financial can support your dreams with a practical plan to make them come true.