Shakespeare defined the marriage of true minds. Fairytales are the definition of happily ever after. But if you don’t know what to do financially after you get married, you could be headed to an unhappy ending. The sad truth is that getting along with in-laws is a piece of cake compared to talking about finances after marriage.
Talk isn’t cheap
The best time to start discussing finances is before you tie the knot. Few people are comfortable talking about money. The result? A majority of marriages fail because of arguments over money. If you want to improve your marriage’s chances for succeeding, you and your future spouse need to open up about your financial histories.
Examine the past
A good place for couples to start talking is about your family’s financial history. How you think about money and your spending and savings habits begin in childhood, and not all childhoods are alike. The attitudes toward money you developed as a child will have an impact on your finances after marriage.
If you want to understand why your future spouse is a tightwad or an impulse buyer, it helps to know the past. Consider sharing childhood memories in response to these questions:
- Were your family’s finances tight? Or was yours a carefree childhood?
- How did your family handle childhood allowances? What were you expected to do with your allowance?
- Did you work as a teenager to buy your own car? Or did your parents hand you the keys to a car on your sixteenth birthday?
- How did your parents handle their finances? Did both of your parents earn an income? How did they divide the bills?
You need to know your future spouse’s attitudes and values regarding money so you can work out any differences before you merge your finances.
Debts and all
Successfully handling your finances after marriage begins with an honest assessment of your current situation, debts and all. You might be tempted to hide what’s less than perfect, but do you really want to find out about school loan debts after the vows? Or learn that your spouse’s credit rating will prevent you from qualifying for a mortgage?
You can’t set up a realistic budget either if you don’t know how much your spouse earns. Here’s the important information you each need to disclose:
- Your monthly income
- Your credit card debt
- Your school loan debt
- Your monthly expenses
- Your assets
As embarrassing as your current finances might be, it’s better to come clean about your debts before you say, “I do.” A sound marriage depends on honesty, including talking about your present finances. Doing so will avoid unpleasant surprises regarding your finances after marriage.
Dreaming about your future together means setting financial goals. Are you on the same page? You need to talk frankly about your priorities.
- You both want to buy a home. Great! But do you have the same dream home in mind?
- You both want to start a family. Congratulations! Do you agree on how much of your children’s college education you’ll pay for?
- When, where, and how do you expect to retire?
Now that you and your spouse are a team, you can tackle paying off your debts together and pooling your finances to fund your future together. With a united front, your finances after marriage can be better than when you were single.
What’s your sign?
Once you’ve tied the knot, it’s time to get your paperwork in order. Marriage changes your filing status, insurance coverage, and household expenses. You need to make decisions jointly.
- Update your W-2s and tax filing status. How much time is left to adjust your finances before your taxes are due? Seek financial help sooner rather than later! It’s no longer just you signing your return.
- If you haven’t already, it’s time to think about where you want your assets to go when you’re gone. Bring your will and life insurance policies up to date. List your spouse as the beneficiary.
- Who will write the checks? You need to create a system that works for both you and your spouse. How much will you both contribute to paying the household expenses? Will you contribute the same amount? Or should you contribute the same percentage of your income?
Keep the lines of communication open so you can adjust your finances after marriage. As you change jobs and your income changes, you’ll need to reassess how much money you each contribute to “yours, mine and ours.”
Happily ever after
Here at United Financial, we aren’t marriage counselors. But we are experts at helping couples merge their finances after marriage. We have a variety of checking and savings options. Our financial advisors can guide you to a combination that will suit your needs. Schedule an appointment today, and let’s get your marriage started on solid financial ground.