The topic of money is a HUGE topic when you're planning to marry. It is uncomfortable, but necessary to do so. Sit down with your honey, no alcohol, and tell the truth about your finances, credit history, etc. Just dive in so you both know what lies ahead in your married future. Once it's over, grab a glass of wine and sigh in relief that that conversation is over, and you both know how to move forward. Here is some further advice on this topic that I hope you find worthwhile. Maybe read this with your honey and print this out as a guideline on topics to tackle together.
planning the rest of your lives together. Scary, right? Here’s a few tips on how to plan your financial merger with your soon-to-be spouse.
1. Determine Financial Values
Discuss what matters most as far as how money is spent, and what your future priorities should be as a married couple. Consider the predicament of Adam Sandler’s character Robbie in The Wedding Singer:
Holly: I mean, you know why she's marrying him, don't you?
Robbie: The money thing? Security? A nice house? I guess that's important to some people.
Holly: No, it's not important to some people, Robbie. It's important to ALL people.
Robbie: Really? Well, then I guess I'm in big trouble.
Being on the same page about how much risk you can handle in your financial lives is super important. Ask each other basic questions, like “When do you see us buying a home?” or “What kind of car should we be driving in five years?” For a more detailed questionnaire about finances and values, check out SmartAboutMoney.org.
2. Disclose Individual Income & Debt
Okay, it’s awkward to talk about, especially if one of you just laid down major plastic to pay for some else’s huge rock. (Wink wink...) But this part of getting to know each other is the single most important step to prepare for your financial future together. Take the time to map out each person’s current yearly income, expected income gains or losses, and past and current debts. Add it all up in different columns so you each know what to expect before you promise “in richer or poorer.” Use this information to design a realistic monthly budget to gain an accurate picture of what you should be spending money on as a married couple.
3. Create a Joint Checking Account
One of the many advantages of marrying the person you love is the comfort of sharing life’s responsibilities with someone you trust explicitly. To make bill-paying easier for both of you to access equally, set up a joint checking account and, possibly for your second honeymoon or future dream home, a joint savings account. If you want to, request your employer to direct deposit your paycheck into your joint checking account so both of your earnings are pooled together. You can still retain a personal checking and/or savings account for extra cash and spending money if you prefer to keep some financial autonomy. For added convenience and accessibility, create a shared email address so that all statements and updates for your joint accounts are equally available to each other.
4. Mind Your Credit Scores
Before merging your lives together forever, investigate your credit scores. This will be the most important factor that will determine your credit limits and, in some cases, your loan interest rates. For your first home, a few points on your credit score could cause you to lose or gain thousands of dollars. It could even cost you your loan approval. To be extra safe, buy a credit protection and monitoring service like LifeLock.
5. Decide How to Split Bills
Before your first bills arrive, decide how to pay them and who will pay them. Some couples prefer to split bills down the center, and each person is responsible for certain ones. Other couples sit together and pay them all from a joint checking account online. Whatever you choose, make sure your expectations match your partner's.
6. Establish a Financial Record System
After a few months, you may notice that one of you religiously saves credit card statements and the other one tears them up into tiny pieces and throws them away with the pizza box. Avoid massive panic and frustration: establish a system for financial documents before you lose something important—like your temper. Consider setting up a sorting station by your front door for incoming and outgoing bills. Buy a shredder and a scanner for the disposal or digital archival of financial documents.
The bottom line is that finances don’t have to be stressful in your new life. You will no longer have to face financial stress alone, and you will potentially have more buying power and increased financial stability. Just remember to plan ahead and communicate. Pizza also helps.