Politics, religion, money. These have been taboo topics of conversation for decades and may have been topics you were told not to discuss at the dinner table. Your parents may have been strict adherents to this rule, which may make it tougher for you to talk with your partner about how you’re going to combine finances after marriage.
The good news is that “the money talk” is much easier to have than the “facts of life talk.” This simple guide can be a roadmap for you to put your heads together about your finances and will offer you some good talking points to work your way through.
What can you do to make it a smooth transition from two individuals with distinct personalities into one couple with a unified vision? Here are some suggestions, in no particular order.
Sometimes the best place to start talking about the future is the past. It’s a good idea to start off as a couple by having an honest discussion about what your financial life was like before you met, how your habits were formed, what your good habits are, and which aren’t. Rip the band-aid off and be brutally honest; it’s all going to make it to the surface sooner or later.
When you do talk about finances, do your best to be supportive and non-judgmental. There’s going to be a learning curve as you meld your money together, so go easy on each other. If tempers flare, go to a neutral corner of the house and resume discussions later, when cooler heads prevail.
You’re in this together for the long haul. Take your time and talk things through at least once a week. Getting on the same page now will save you from a lot of trouble down-the-road.
One of the first things you’ll want to do as you blend your finances is to sit together and create a monthly budget that you can follow together. List your total income and all of your expenses – hopefully, you’ll have money left over each month that you can put into savings. If you have too much money left at the end of the month, decide together what can be trimmed from the budget.
[ Related read: 26 of the best personal budgeting tips ]
You’ve probably both had your own checking account for quite a while, and some couples prefer to leave it that way after they get married. If you decide to do it this way, you’ll need to determine who will pay for what. This can create some friction if one spouse feels they’re shouldering more of the load than the other or if they’re not being left with enough spending money to enjoy life like they used to.
Many couples find it easier to have all of their money in one joint account. This way, there’s no guesswork about who has what and what’s been paid or not paid. One tip – check the account balance before you use your debit card. You may not know what your spouse has spent since you last reviewed it.
If you participate in a retirement plan at work, like a 401(k), or if you have group life insurance in-force as an employee benefit or a personal life insurance policy, you might need to update the beneficiary you named and change it to your spouse’s name. If a maiden name is used as the beneficiary, change it to the married name, if applicable.
[ Related read: What is a life insurance beneficiary? ]
Now that you’re married and most likely a two-income family, you’ll want to be sure your spouse is provided for if you die and your income is no longer available to them. This means purchasing life insurance as a means of replacing your income, paying off your mortgage, or creating a college fund if you have children. If both spouses are working or if there are kids, both of you should be insured.
Disability insurance is another type of insurance you’ll need. According to the Social Security Administration, 25% of Americans will experience a disability in their careers before they retire. With disability insurance, you’ll still have an income even though there’s no longer a paycheck.
It’s important to do both short-term and long-term planning together concerning your finances. Like any worthwhile endeavor, setting goals, writing them down, and reviewing them regularly leads to success.
What should you begin with? Here are four good goals to start your planning:
- Contributing to your retirement accounts and setting a goal to eventually max out your contributions
- Opening a separate account for an emergency fund and having 3-6 months of money for living expenses in it
- Having a plan to eliminate all debt and having a timetable in place
- Saving for big goals, like buying a house, etc.
Some couple can put their goals together and get them on paper just fine by themselves, while others find it useful to work with a professional to help them. Friends and family can often refer you to a Certified Financial Planner that can help. If they can’t, a Google search will provide you with numerous websites to help you find one in your area.
[ Related read: How to set smart financial goals ]
Coming home and finding that their spouse has just spent thousands of dollars on new furniture for the living room isn’t going to go over well in most households. Discussing big purchases together before you buy is not only good money management, it’s also common courtesy. If you’re combining finances after marriage, the money you possess belongs to both of you.
Some couples will make an agreement that any purchase over a certain dollar amount must be agreed upon by both partners. This can help eliminate impulse purchases and keep conflict over purchases to a minimum.
The common denominator with all of these is that they need to be done together. Work together and make a pact that you’ll never let money come between you. You got married because you trust each other – it’s amazing what you’ll accomplish financially when you work together.
Having grown up in upstate New York, Bob Phillips spent over 15 years in the financial services world and has been making freelance writing contributions to blogs and websites since 2007. He resides in North Texas with his wife and Doberman puppy.
The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.