You’ve just tied the knot and are ready to settle down into the life of a newlywed.
But before you put away all the wedding gifts and organize your honeymoon photos, there is an important conversation you must have: Money.
Many married couples skip this awkward step, and fall into some sort of hybrid of each individual’s money style when dealing with joint finances. It may be difficult to talk to your beloved about money, but it is a non-negotiable if you want a healthy marriage.
Money problems are cited as one of the top reasons for divorce, just behind infidelity and communication issues. Don’t let that happen to your marriage! These are six tips that you should take with your spouse to secure your marriage and money for many years to come.
Although this conversation would ideally happen before the wedding, it is important for both husband and wife to know their combined net worth. That includes any outstanding debt as well as assets like savings, retirement and life insurance accounts.
It’s not possible to move forward financially if you don’t know where you are, so bring it all to the table. Even if you’ve been married forever, this is something that’s worth going over every few years.
Just like periodic weigh-ins can keep weight from creeping up on you, periodic net worth check-ins will keep you from losing track of how your money is faring.
Set Goals for Your Marriage and Money
Once you and your sweetheart know where you currently stand financially, make some life goals. This is the fun part of the money discussion. What do you want to be able to do in the future? Pay off your student loan before you have kids?
Retire with $1,000,000? Own a house? This conversation will help you and your spouse to determine what is most important to each of you. Don’t bite off more than you can chew with this exercise. Determine which 2-3 goals are most important to you and focus on them.
Track Your Spending
It’s all very well to know how much you are worth, but you have to know what is happening to every dollar that passes through your hands, as well. Without this information, it is nearly impossible to create a workable budget and start planning for your goals.
There are many tools available for money tracking, from good old-fashioned pencil and paper, to self-tracking online tools. Try different systems until you find one that works for you. No matter what system you use, track your spending for at least a month (and ideally for three months) so you have an accurate view of where your money goes.
Create a Budget Together
Now you have a much better grasp on what your money is (and isn’t) doing for you, and you can put together a budget to help you reach the goals you defined in step two. Many financial gurus like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman offer budgeting advice, in addition to the thousands of budgeting website available online.
Just as with the spending tracker, you will want to find the system that works best for you. The most important aspect of budgeting in a marriage, however, is consensus. Both spouses must agree to the budget or it will go unused.
Whether you have a joint checking account, separate accounts, or a mix, it is likely that one spouse will be the money manager in the marriage. Decide ahead of time who will be the one to pay bills, balance the checkbook, keep track of financial records and make day-to-day money decisions.
All financial work does not have to be made by the same individual, as long as someone covers every money decision. If you have decided ahead of time who will take care of each aspect of your finances, you won’t have a month where you each think the other has paid the mortgage.
Plan for Emergencies
Unfortunately, your married life will not always be smooth sailing. It is important to have money set aside for when things aren’t going great financially. This not only means having a 3-6 month reserve of cash set aside in case of financial emergency, but it also means planning for the worst.
No one wants to think about death, but it is important for newlyweds (and not-so-newlyweds who haven’t done so yet) to make sure they have enough life insurance and an updated will. Think of it as the most loving thing you can do for your spouse.
Money and marriage may not be the most romantic combination, but being on the same page financially will strengthen your bond and keep your relationship healthy. And that is romantic.
If you are married, what marriage and money tips do you have to offer newlyweds?