Merging Your Money
Marriage and Financial Planning
TIP: Money is the one thing that people say they argue about most in marriage. Lay your financial groundwork before you marry to avoid arguments later.
Wedding to-do lists generally cover hiring the photographer and writing thank you notes, but don’t forget you’re setting up a business partnership as well.
Decide how you’re going to handle your financial affairs before you tie the knot and you’ll find love flourishes stronger. It’s more complicated today, but you also can access lots of expert advice. Gather information about options from your bank and brokerage house; then discuss the options when the two of you are alone.
Although marriage and money can be a stressful combination, open communication and education can help make it easier.
Consider the following:
- Joint Accounts: Do you want a joint banking account? Experts advise keeping separate personal accounts and opening a joint account for household expenses, particularly if you are a two-paycheck couple. Deciding how to spend the household money will keep you talking about how you want to handle your finances. Even if you decide to pool everything, it’s wise to give each of you a set amount to do with as you wish to avoid conflicts.
You may want to put each other’s names on your separate accounts for easier access in an emergency. In any joint account, list your names as John and Jane Doe rather than John or Jane Doe to indicate that both are equally authorized as users.
- Separate Accounts: One reason to keep separate bank accounts and credit cards is to maintain your own credit ratings. Another reason is that a little bit of financial independence allows each of you to spend some money without triggering an argument. It used to be called “mad money.” Now it’s your separate account.
- Whose job is it?: Set up a system for paying the bills even if you choose on a shared account. Bookkeeping is tidier if one spouse is in charge of the checkbook, but alternate the duty to share the responsibility and to make sure you both know how to do it. As your relationship and financial situation change, you may devise other ways of handling your joint finances, but never lose your commitment to equality in marriage.
- Create a budget: List your monthly income and expenses. This will not only help you save money but it will help you talk about your financial priorities. Visit this page of msmoney.com to get started.
- Credit Report: Everyone has a credit report. Credit reports are used by a variety of service providers from car insurance companies to mortgage houses to your cable company. When you marry you are not only legally bound, you are also financially bound. Knowing who has “good” credit or “bad” credit can help you decide whose name to put on the lease or mortgage. Discussing your credit report can also stimulate valuable and necessary conversations about spending and saving.
- Credit Cards: Credit Card debt is a reality that so many people find themselves struggling with. Now that you’ll be legally and financially attached to someone you love and trust, you’ll want to discuss any credit card debt you may have. Myvesta.org recommends that if one spouse has good credit and the other has damaged credit, it is important to not merge the bad with the good. To ensure that doesn’t happen, do not put your spouses name on any of your financial accounts.
For information on the financial aspects of marriage visit Insurance, Retirement Plans & Wills.
For help with how to talk to your partner about money click here.