Congratulations on your new marriage! During the blissful days of your honeymoon period, it may be tempting to keep your finances off the table. But money is a topic you should address and plan for right away.
It may not seem romantic, but money plays a major part in a marriage. Finances can be a major stressor, so it’s important to start off on the right foot with smart planning and good communication. These steps can help you do just that!
Step One: Talk About Your Financial Habits
Start your marriage off by talking to your spouse about your financial habits. You should each know about the bills that come in, debts owed, savings habits, spending habits, credit cards, credit scores and other day-to-day financial information. Being open and honest can help build a strong foundation for everything from budgeting to planning for your future together.
In addition to your daily expenses, you should also discuss the way you each manage your money. Consider things like how often you save, whether or not you have started planning for retirement and how you handle financial decisions.
You don’t have to have the exact same opinions on everything. The goal should be to communicate well, be transparent, keep one another informed and see where compromises might be needed.
Step Two: Decide How You Want to Handle Banking and Bills
Once you know the financial details, you’ll want to decide how to handle banking. There are plenty of options, so an open discussion will help you decide the best route to support your needs.
Some couples may want to also “marry” their bank accounts and go with joint accounts across the board. Others may prefer a joint account for some things and individual accounts for others. And some married couples prefer to have separate accounts with each person having particular financial responsibilities.
There is no wrong answer here as long as you are both honest about financial matters and agree on whatever plan works best. Keep in mind that flexibility and communication are still important, even after you decide.
And keep in mind that your needs may change over time, so be flexible and adjust to what works best for your current situation.
Step Three: Evaluate Tax and Insurance Plans
Once you are married, you should go over your existing tax forms together to see if you need to make any adjustments to your current withholding allowances. If any adjustments are needed, you’ll have to get with your employer’s HR department to adjust the paperwork.
During tax season, you’ll now have the option to file married jointly or married separately. Talk to your accountant or tax professional to help decide which option is best for you.
You’ll also want to look at your insurance coverage now that you’re married. Discuss if you want to consolidate your auto insurance. Look at your health coverage and see if one of you has a better program than the other. Decide if it would be better to get on a family plan or if you’d save more by staying on your individual plans. And don’t forget to update any beneficiary designations.
There are often time limits for how long after a wedding you can switch health insurance coverage, so find out the policies at your respective companies. If you miss the deadline, you’ll have to wait until open enrollment comes around to make any changes.
Step Four: Make a List of Financial Priorities
Newlyweds are often full of dreams and hopes for the future. To help make those dreams come true, take time to figure out your financial priorities as a couple.
This isn’t a budget or a goal, but rather a list of the things you want to focus on first. This step will make it much easier to make your budget and create financial goals, because you’ll already be on the same page about what is most important.
If you both know that travel is something you want to experience in the early years of your marriage, put it on the list. Or perhaps your major priority is to pay off student loan debt or saving for starting a family.
Your priority list can include short- and long-term financial matters. It’s all about what’s important to you as a couple.
Step Five: Create a Budget and Financial Goals
Once you know what your priorities are, you’re ready to tackle the foundation for your new financial future: creating a budget and financial goals.
Your budget should handle everything from daily expenses and establishing an emergency fund to future financial goals.
Your financial goals should include short- and long-term considerations. Some potential short-term goals might be saving for a vacation or a down payment for your first home. Long-term goals could include things like funding a child’s education or saving for retirement.
Create an action plan for incorporating your goals into your existing budget. Budgeting tools can make it easy for you to create your monthly budget and monitor progress on your financial goals without the stress.
Marriage and money might sound tricky, but by working together as a team you can focus on what matters most, your beautiful new life together!