There are a million and one decisions to make after you decide to get married. And with wedding season upon us, it’s a great time to start thinking about money conversations you need to have before you tie the knot.
Even as a money expert and certified financial planner, I came into my second marriage with some debt and some baggage and fears around money. I believe everyone has a goal of starting their marriage off on the right financial foot so I created a list of the most important money decisions to make with your new spouse to set your marriage up for financial success.
Everyone is going to have a different opinion, but mine is yes. When you get married you are fusing together two opinions on how to best manage your money. Utilizing one bank account reinforces the partner element that enhances making joint decisions. It allows you to have more open money conversations that you are not forced into when you have separate bank accounts.
If you decide to keep your bank accounts separately then I suggest having one joint account for major bills and operate separate accounts for your “play money”.
Whether you decide to join or not, I suggest a couple create a ” Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” amount of money that each individual can spend without having to answer any questions about it. It may be $100, it may be $1000, whatever feels like the right amount of money for your relationship that you and your partner can spend without having any judgement. Having this money amount set can lead to less stress and less risk of financial infidelity.
Am I responsible for my spouse’s credit card debt?
That is a question I get asked all the time.
Taking on another person’s debt is a difficult conversation to have but a very real scenario for many newly married couples. Whether or not you are in a state where you are legally bound to your partners debt you need to understand what kind of financial situation you are walking into and as a team, how you are going to get through it.
If you don’t feel comfortable taking on your partner’s personal debt, there are other ways to help your partner reach their debt-free goal. For example, you can take on an additional portion of the rent or pay the utility bills so that your partner can put a larger portion of their income into debt payoff. There is still additional money coming out of your pocket, but doing it this may drive less resentment.
Combining salaries can sometimes be misleading because you now feel like you are bringing in twice the money you once were. But in reality, managing money becomes more complex when there are two people involved.
The first step to managing your budget as a married couple is actively deciding who will be the point person for finances and determining how the day-to-day cash management will be tracked. Make sure that whoever the point person is, you are determining as a couple what your financial goals are.
Keep a routine date scheduled to review your money tracking as a couple. Use an app like Monarch which is my personal favorite. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes a month but the benefits are endless.
Once you designate a point person, put regular money dates on the calendar right away. Doing this simple trick can save a lot of time, energy, and frustration when it comes to managing your money as two people together. Once I implemented a weekly money date with my husband, everything changed. It allowed us to have open conversations about what was happening with our money, it allowed us to make decisions together on how we were spending, and we can see together how we are tracking towards our money goals. They aren’t stressful and have managed to almost completely cut out any money fights. I recommend having a weekly date set. Creating financial intimacy with your partner is so important that I have an entire episode dedicated to it.
So what do you talk about in these money dates?
Make sure you cover topics from weekly spending to larger goals. Some of the topics could include: What is our grocery spending amount for the week? What is our plan to earn extra income? What are larger expenses that we will have to take care of this month like car repair or property taxes. Anything that just feels big and weighty- the money date is the time to get it off your chest.
You will want to make sure you are tracking where you are in your debt repayment and touch on anything that may have caused tension over the past week. Maybe one person spent more money than the other thought was necessary. Just talk it out without playing the blame game.
As you are starting the beginning of your new life, it’s hard to think about something as devastating as losing your partner. As we know though, you cannot plan what life will bring your way. After you get married, it’s very likely that your income has increased but it may also mean that your debt has increased. You are now living a lifestyle with two incomes that probably can only be maintained with two incomes. With a life insurance policy, you can ensure that your partner stays financially stable if something happens to you, especially if you are the partner that brings in more monthly income.
How Much Life Insurance Should I Get?
Some companies give you a free $50,00 and then give you an option to buy more. I believe most people need a policy that is eight to ten times your yearly income.
Life insurance isn’t a one size fits all and its something that may not make sense for you right now but keep it on your radar and do thorough research before committing to a plan.
Another sticky topic to discuss is creating a will. Discussing a will tends to be a not so popular money conversation, but I really encourage couples to do this after you get married. Just take care of it right away, and then you don’t have to think about it for a while. A will simply become your voice if something happens to you. It helps to determine the person in charge of carrying out your will, or the executor. And that’s a great thing, right? You get to pick the person that you know will do the best to honor you and your wishes.
It wasn’t fun to do, but honestly, I just I felt so much better once my husband and I had created our will, because I felt like it’s just one of those things that you have to check off the list. It isn’t fun to do, but then you can kind of sleep a little bit better at night, there’s a little bit more peace.
Call me crazy, but I really think that talking about money, it does equal a happy marriage. There are so many components that go into a marriage, and money is one of them. You should be talking about the financial expectations in your marriage before you are even legally married. Yes, these conversations can be uncomfortable, but they are key to establishing a healthy partnership.