It’s never too early—or too late—to determine how you, as a couple, will manage your money. Follow these tips to help keep your finances as harmonious as your marriage.
Whether you’re a newlywed or a veteran of the institution, dealing with family finances when you’re married can turn a happy home into the little house of horrors. Luckily, the same foundation for a successful marriage—trust, understanding and communication—can also create a harmonious blending of finances. The key is be informed about your partner’s financial past, set goals for your family finances and determine how, together, those goals will be met.
Here are a few tips on how to successfully manage your money when you’re married.
Merging your money.
You’ve merged your lives, now will you merge your finances? You and your partner will need to determine if you will have separate bank accounts, a joint account or a combination of both—say a joint account to cover household expenses and separate accounts that can be used for smaller purchases, like gifts for one another. If you choose not to have a joint account, then you’ll also need to determine how paychecks will be deposited into the separate accounts.
Dealing with debt and credit.
Likely, one or both of you came into the marriage with some financial debt. Or maybe your credit history is less than perfect. Create a plan of how you will, together, decrease your combined debt load. Find out both of your credit scores (MyFico.com or any of the three credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax or TransUnion—can provide you with your credit score number) and determine what needs to change to increase your scores if necessary.
Review your bank and credit card statements for the last six months. What purchases are being made? Are there any surprises? Spending is a common cause for spats between couples. To avoid this, determine how much money will be allocated to certain purchases and how much each partner can spend without having to consult the other.
Creating a budget.
Write down all your known expenses (such as your rent or car payment) and estimate your variable expenses (such as groceries and utilities). Based on past history, determine how much you want to spend in those categories for the next month and then the month after that. See where your spending is going and where you want to make changes. (See this article for help with creating a budget.)
Planning for the future.
As a couple, you likely have some shared goals for the future: purchasing a home, starting a family, retiring in Paris. Whatever your goals may be, you both need to sit down and decide how you will reach them. This is where a budget especially comes in handy. You may also want to consider investing your money to help it grow, which may be something a financial advisor can help you with.
And don’t forget that planning for the future involves obtaining the right insurance (life, disability and possibly long-term care), creating a will and changing beneficiaries on your financial accounts.
Managing it all.
Typically one partner in the relationship becomes the CFO—chief financial officer—of the family’s finances. This is the person in charge of paying bills on time, keeping the budget in check and reviewing any investments. For this arrangement to work, the CFO must keep their partner up-to-date of the family finances, which can be done through regular discussions.
Finding the right way to manage your money once you’re married can take some time, along with some trial and error. But the only way any system will work is to be honest with one another and to communicate regularly.
This article contains general information. Individual financial situations are unique; please, consult your financial advisor or tax attorney before utilizing any of the information contained in this article.
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