Published October 20, 2014|4 min read
In this post we help you Reduce the risk of starting off your marriage on the financial rocks
When engaged couples are thinking about their future together, it can be easy for them to get so swept up in the process of planning a wedding that they forget to financially plan for all of the days that happen after—you know, the rest of the marriage.
If you want to build a financially stable marriage, be sure to set financial guidelines as newlyweds. Bringing up the hard questions at the beginning can save you from misunderstandings, disagreements and stressful conversations later. Below, we’ve collected tips to help you lay a stable financial foundation and avoid some of the most common mistakes.
This may seem obvious, but fostering open communication between you and your partner regarding your finances is a must. When you first sit down to discuss your finances, this is the perfect time to lay everything out. Talk through all the numbers so you have a grip on where you stand. Explain to your partner how much you make, how much you have in savings and investments, and make sure you disclose any and all debt. Keeping debt from your loved one here is a very, very bad idea. It’s much worse to discover as a surprise down the road.
You’re probably heard it forever, but creating a budget and sticking to it is the simplest way to make sure you stay on track. If you’re in debt, this Forbes article recommends that you live off 70% of your income and put the other 30% toward savings and debt. If you’re debt free, you should save 20% of your earnings and put 10% of those savings toward retirement and the other 10% toward an emergency fund savings account. Nicole Ruiz, a 22-year-old recent newlywed whose husband is a deployed Marine, said she and her husband talk about their future plans and what they should be saving for and make sure that they set aside a certain amount from their paychecks into a joint savings account.
Another budgeting tip is to set a spending threshold above which you and your partner must have a conversation. Think of it this way—you’re an adult, and you probably don’t want to ask someone permission to buy a pair of shoes. But if you and your partner have some shared accounts, you’ll want to work out a system that works for the two of you about how you handle larger purchases. Lay out a dollar amount limit for spending, above which you two discuss the purchase. This will keep both of you informed about where your money is going and ensure that you’re on the same page.
Thinking really far into the future is not easy to do, especially when there are a thousand other things pulling at your wallet now. But if you put saving off until a day when you feel like you’re ready, that day is probably not going to come any time soon. Many young couples fall into the trap of thinking about their finances in just immediate terms, but the sooner you start saving, the more you will have down the line. Putting as much as you can afford (10% minimum) into a tax-deferred retirement account is the simplest way to make sure you’re not blindsided down the road.
Until now, unless you have a child or someone else dependent upon you for support, you’ve probably been thinking about your finances from only a personal standpoint. Everything has been "mine"—"my" paycheck, "my" savings, "my" debt. The confusing part about navigating finances when you first marry is learning to think in terms of "ours." When you marry someone, you’re merging your lives together, and financially, this means you’re marrying their debt, their spending habits and their credit score. When you look at all of these different financial situations that just became "yours," be mindful of your partner’s money habits as well.
We spoke to family financial planner Matt Becker about how he and his wife handled this. "It's not always easy, and we've each had to make compromises to account for the other one's personal style. We also have to make a conscious effort to keep an open line of communication so that we stay on the same page. The longer we go without talking money, the more likely it is that we'll run into a problem." (Read the rest of his interview here.)
Trying to understand your partner’s financial tendencies and the reasons behind them will give you better clarity into their decision-making process. For instance, if your partner is inclined to save, and you’re more of a spender, don’t expect those tendencies to instantly change once you marry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—you need a balance, but it’s a balance and a compromise, not one person changing to completely meet the other’s ideals. Working to meet each other at the middle will keep you both involved in the money management process and make it feel like a team effort.
Did we miss any helpful tips? Leave a comment below!
Photo credit: Gertjan Baarda
Get essential money news & money moves with the Easy Money newsletter.
Free in your inbox each Friday.