Tying the knot is a big deal. And when you commit to share your future with someone else, you’re committing to sharing finances as well.
Merging finances and lifestyles can put stress on any marriage, but with communication and preparation, you and your spouse can merge your finances stress free. You may even be able to accomplish more than ever with your combined income.
Set Goals Together
It’s important that both partners are on the same page when it comes to all things finance. Before making any major changes to your finances, communicate with your new spouse and create a plan you’re both happy with. Take the time to sit down together to establish financial goals, future aspirations or milestones you’d like to complete within your first year of marriage.
To set those goals, you and your partner must determine what your next steps are after marriage. Are you planning to purchase a home or will you be renting an apartment? Will you be having children soon, somewhere in the future or maybe not at all? Be sure to account for debts as well. If you have student loan debt or car payments, consider including paying them off in a timely manner within your goals.
Setting and meeting goals, big or small, will make you feel more like a team financially. This is one of the first steps to building the framework to your financial future together and achieving these goals can bring partners even closer.
Join Accounts or Keep Them Separate?
Opening a joint account is an option many newlyweds find helpful when merging finances. A joint account allows two or more people to individually deposit and withdraw funds as necessary.
There are many ways to manage joint accounts. Discuss what you and your spouse feel is the best option when drafting goals for your first year of marriage. You may also consider opening up multiple joint accounts, each with a different purpose. One for savings, one for bills, and one for fun and entertainment. This will keep your funds organized but separated in a way that makes it clear what each account is to be used for.
You also have the option to create accounts that match your shared goals. If you both are hoping for an early retirement, think about creating a shared retirement savings account. If you both are looking to use your combined income to start a business, consider a savings account dedicated to startup costs.
Although joint accounts are a quick and easy way to merge your funds, having a joint account may not work best for your situation. It’s possible that you and your partner would prefer to keep your finances independent of each other and just maintain separate accounts. In any of these cases, open communication and planning is crucial.
Budgeting for Two
Creating a budget together will give you a map of how to accomplish your goals. You can always go the old-fashioned route and pay bills first, put some away for savings and split the remaining balance. However, this can be confusing if each person has different income levels, expenses and debts. For a more organized and goal-orientated approach, consider one of the following models:
- Fixed Dollar System: Each individual puts a fixed amount of money into his or her personal accounts per month. This ensures that bills get paid, you’re saving up together and each person has money put into their personal account each month.
- Percentage Model: The percentage model works similarly to the fixed dollar system, but instead of a fixed amount, a percentage of your income goes into a joint account while the rest goes into a personal account. For example, if person 1 is making $1,000 per month and person 2 is making $1,500 per month, 70% of each (totaling $1,750) would go into the joint while the rest goes into personal accounts.
- Separate Cost Division Model: In this case, each party has separate bank accounts and expenses are divided separately. If there is a big difference in the earnings of each person, the higher earner may take on the larger costs, such as the mortgage, car payments and student debt, while the lower earner pays for daily bills and expenses.
There are several ways to budget, but what is important is that both people are represented and agree on which choice will work best. Once you choose which budget suits your lifestyle, hold each other accountable and keep track of your own finances to be sure you’re meeting the expectations the two of you outlined when the budget was created. Don’t be afraid to change your methods and try something new if you find that the budget style you began with isn’t working the way you hoped.
Finances can be a stress on any new marriage, but with open communication, creating goals, planning ahead and budgeting, you and your partner can have a healthy financial future.