Marriage represents a new beginning as well as the merging of two individuals into one. This is true for several aspects of your lives, including your finances. As you begin your new life together, consider these tips to start things off on a financially sound footing.
9 Tips to Start Your Marriage Off Financially Sound
Tip #1: Gather Your Documents
Before you do anything together, each of you should do a personal assessment and gather together financial documents. For example:
- Bank account information, including the type of account (checking, savings, etc.) and where it is located
- Retirement accounts, such 401k’s, IRA’s, etc.
- Property (homes, cars, etc.)
- Tax returns
- Bills and expenses
- Debts: loans and credit cards
Note that for some couples their individual finances may not be that complicated, while for others, the opposite will be the case. Make it a goal to have all the information gathered together by a certain date.
Tip #2: Hold a Financial Meeting
Once you have collected all of the information, have a meeting with each other to go over the books. Consider this a discovery meeting to communicate with each other where you stand as individuals financially. Schedule this meeting on your calendars as a firm commitment that cannot be changed.
Tip #3: To Merge or Keep Separate?
Decide whether or not to merge your accounts together, keep them separate, or to have a blend of the two. If you decide to keep many of your accounts separate at least open joint checking and savings accounts. This is so that:
- You have an account for expenses you share (such as utility bills or the mortgage payment).
- There is an account that you can both contribute to for an emergency fund or to make major purchases.
Tip #4: Set up Automatic Deposits and Withdrawals
Once you have figured out your accounts, establish automatic deposits and withdrawals of funds. This will take some of the guesswork out of having to remember to pay bills on time. Also, having automatic deposits into joint accounts demonstrates that you both are committed to your relationship financially.
Tip #5: Set Financial Goals
Establish financial goals that you would like to reach together. For example:
- Establishing a down payment for a home
- Saving for retirement
- Creating a college fund for children
- Paying off debts
- Purchasing a vehicle
These are important goals, but also think about what kinds of fun things you would like to do and how to accomplish them. For instance, if there is a vacation you both would like to take, how would you save for that trip in order to make it happen?
Tip #6: Establish a Budget
When you were single making a budget probably didn’t cross your mind. Now that you are married it is important that both of you know how much income is coming in and what your expenses are. Also, what are areas where you can save?
Tip #7: Be Careful with Debts
It may be tempting to merge debts together, but be careful. Do you want to become responsible for your spouse’s debts incurred before you entered into a relationship? It would be appropriate, however, to take on a debt jointly when purchasing something together, such as a home.
Tip #8: Create a Schedule
Make it a goal to check-in with each other monthly about finances. You can schedule it into a joint calendar. Also, it may be hard to talk about everything we discussed in one sitting, so consider tackling one topic at a time.
Tip #9: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are over your head. Working with a counselor can help you both navigate the financial and emotional issues involved with being newlyweds.
Being newly married is an exciting time as you create a new life together. Make sure that this includes making sure your marriage is financially healthy too.
Denise Kautzer is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and a Certified Public Accountant whose practice is located in St. Paul, MN. You can view her website at www.denisekautzer.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.