Getting married is one of the most exciting, stressful and momentous occasions in your life. Wedding planning alone is a huge stressor. Luckily, it all pays off when you’re finally introduced as a married couple.
The marriage process doesn’t end when you cut the cake or make the toast, though. Married couples should take the time to marry their finances as well in order to foster a stable beginning to their marriage.
No one’s a mind reader, and it’s unfair to assume someone knows exactly what you’re dealing with if you don’t tell them. This sage advice to communicate through all aspects of your marriage also applies to joining your finances. You and your partner should have an honest, positive discussion regarding your current financial situation and what you are bringing to the table – both good and bad. Open up about credit card debt, student loans and your spending habits. If both of you continue spending as though you are unmarried, you’ll likely face financial hardship down the road. Be critical of each other’s spending, but try to be understanding. After all, half the battle is being vulnerable and honest, which may be embarrassing and awkward for your other half.
Once you each have a better understanding of where your money is going, you can set up a plan to get rid of any unnecessary expenditures. Together, you and your partner should agree on a particular amount of “leisure spending” you can afford per week, per month or per year, whichever works for you. While it’s easy to say you’ll never make unnecessary purchases, it’s also unrealistic. It’s important to treat yourself and your partner occasionally to help build a happier relationship – just don’t go overboard.
Once you’ve agreed on your leisure budget, it’s time to make a plan to pay down those debts. You may have thousands in student debt, car loans or other debts weighing you down. As a newly united couple, it’s important you nip those in the bud as a team as early as possible. You may choose to pay more than the minimum monthly payment or you may decide to pay down the principle in a large sum. While it’s no fun to send hundreds of dollars a month off to a loan servicer, you’ll be shortening the amount of time you have to live with debt hanging over your heads and free up your money for the future.
While you’re on the topic, it’ll help to designate jobs for each person. Who will make sure the student loan debt is paid every month? What about the car or electric bill? This ensures no one person is taking on more responsibility than the other and that all bills are paid on time.
Once you tie the knot, it’s time to tie the accounts together as well. Open a joint bank account and transfer all automatic bill payments, direct deposits and credit or debit cards to that account. Inform all your loan servicers and banks of the changes, especially if one or both of you has changed your name with the marriage. You may choose to continue banking separately. If this is the case, assigning duties to pay certain bills is even more important to ensuring one isn’t accidentally overlooked.
Don’t forget: you now have the option to file your taxes jointly, as well. You may wish to change the amount withheld from your paychecks at your job to account for this change should you choose to adopt it. Also make sure your spouse or any new dependents such as stepsons or stepdaughters are now beneficiaries on your insurance policies, 401(k) and estate documents.
Congratulations on your marriage! Now’s the time to sort out your financial situation so you and your spouse have a stable nest egg for the next step in your life’s journey. If you’re unsure about how to set your marriage up for financial success, you may wish to talk to a financial counselor who has your best interests in mind.
At American Financial Solutions, we can counsel you and your partner on all areas of your financial well-being, including credit, student loans, mortgages and more! To learn more about how we’ve been helping Seattle couples like you transform their financial situation, contact us online today!