Are you about to get married and wondering how to blend your finances with your soon-to-be spouse? It’s true that couples’ finances is one of the biggest causes of frustration post-wedding.
To start your future together off on the right foot, here are four easy steps for merging your finances with your partner:
- Have a frank conversation about your respective finances. While few people enjoy sharing information about their financial history with others, this is a must—especially before you tie the knot. Agree to set judgment aside so you can both put it all on the table (literally). Show each other your bank statements, pay stubs, retirement accounts, investment accounts, debts and credit history. Not only will doing this establish a deeper level of trust, but it will also help you prepare to make major purchases—such as buying a home—together, in addition to potentially sharing expenses.
- Come up with a couples’ budget. First, write down all of your own expenses, including:
- Utilities—like your monthly rent and cable bill
- Discretionary spending—food/entertainment and gym fees
- Secured debt—your monthly mortgage and auto loan payments
- Unsecured debt—such as student loans and credit cards
Then, create a combined budget and decide who should pay what.
- Decide how to manage your money together. Before you start combining bank accounts, discuss your options. You might feel more comfortable opening a joint account and contributing money into it for specific expenses rather than putting all of your money together in one account. You may even decide to keep your finances separate. It also helps to assign one of you responsibility for managing joint bank accounts and ensuring bills get paid on time to avoid wasting money on excess fees and penalties.
- Establish goals for your future together. Whether you want to eliminate debt, save up for a home or an emergency fund, or figure out how to maximize your retirement and tax benefits, you should create a plan to help you prioritize and reach your goals. If you’d prefer not to do this on your own, consider hiring a professional advisor who specializes in financial planning for couples. They can also help answer questions about filing joint taxes and updating your will, retirement accounts and insurance policies by naming your spouse as a beneficiary.
However you decide to handle your finances as a couple, try to keep the lines of communication open. Consider revisiting your budget together every six months to stay informed and discuss your financial progress. It also helps to keep a record of how each of you manages your accounts in the event something should happen that prevents you or your spouse from continuing to oversee them.