Congratulations! It’s official, you’re married. Now that your honeymoon is over and the white sand is off your feet, it’s time to get financially organized. Financial harmony is a key component to making your marriage flourish. This checklist will help you build a strong financial foundation and allow the honeymoon phase to never end.
As individuals, we develop money habits based on the way we were raised and on our societal norms. This may not be a secret but for the majority of us, we weren’t with our partners as teenagers. So how is your partner supposed to know about the way you grew up with money? It would be ignorant to assume your partner grew up the same way you did. As the old adage goes, you know what happens when you assume! Some of us were fortunate to have experienced an abundance of gifts over the holidays. Others of us didn’t have gifts, instead volunteered our time as a gift during the holidays. How does this impact you as a couple? Maybe your partner becomes overwhelmed with the amount of gifts your family gives each other during the holidays. Another example, some of us are fortunate to have graduated school debt free. Others of us worked our way through school or simply couldn’t afford it. As a couple, this could lead to differing opinions on debt management. At the end of the day, we each have our own money mind based on past experiences, it is important for our partner to know our past relationship with money because our past tendencies come into our relationship.
Now that you’ve had the discussion about money growing up, it’s time to start talking about your goals are as a couple. Here are some questions to jumpstart your conversation.
Budget as a Couple
The dreaded ‘B’ word. Fortunately, budgeting can be fun if you change your mindset around it. Rather than viewing it as a tool to limit your spending, view it as an opportunity to save more and reach your goals, whether it be to fund a vacation or purchase a new bicycle. First, record your income or cash inflows (i.e. salaries) as a couple. Then, record your fixed expenses (i.e. rent, mortgage, utilities). The difference can be used for groceries, restaurants, and festivals - also known as your spending money. That’s the easiest way to approach the budget. But, I’d challenge you to approach it slightly different because if you look at the difference as spending money the truth is your going to spend it ALL! What we recommend is establishing a fixed amount of money that you want to save a month whether that’s $250 or $1,000 (with personal finance, the greater the amount, the better). The difference between your income, your fixed expenses, and your savings amount will give you a new spending money number. Yes, having a set savings amount will lower your spending money on a monthly basis but this is a good problem. This allows us to be more intentional with our spending. Our spending must reflect our values in order to achieve happiness. If you as a couple enjoy music, then buy the concert tickets. If you enjoy exercise, then pay for your CrossFit membership. But realize that in order to make the budget work we must make sacrifices for items that do not reflect who we are. We must also remember to make sacrifices for our partner so he/she can achieve happiness.
Prior to marriage, you most likely opened bank accounts in your own name. Well, now that you’re married - what’s yours is mine baby! It’s time to consolidate your bank accounts and taxable investment accounts. Research financial institutions and open joint accounts and please consolidate your accounts at only a few locations in order to stay better organized.
Retirement accounts cannot be in joint ownership, so they must remain in your single name. In order to make sure your account stays in the family be sure to update your primary beneficiary to reflect your partner. You can also select contingent beneficiaries in case your partner were to pass away as well. Here you’ll be able to add kids, parents, siblings, relatives or friends.
Now that you are no longer the only financial provider in your household, insurance must be reviewed. What were to happen if your spouse passed away? Could you maintain your new lifestyle without your partner’s income? The answer is most likely not, so you’ll want to first update your life insurance with your employer to reflect an adequate amount of coverage for your partner. Another option is purchasing a term life insurance policy on your partner. Term insurance is typically the cheapest coverage in terms of an annual premium and will cover you for a set number of years (i.e. 30 years).
Create a Will
Each partner will want to draft a will to cover assets not including retirement accounts or taxable accounts. The will directs where personal property will go if you pass away. Your partner may have a necklace that was passed down from her great grandmother, the will can direct this to go to a sibling or relative. The will also is vital if you have a child because it names guardianship if you were to pass away. We don’t often think about what happens when we pass away, but it is very important to have your wishes documented for the sake of your partner and other family members.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a recommendation of Fyooz Financial Planning, Natalie Slagle CFP®, or Daniel Slagle CFP®. Past performance may not be indicative of future results and may have been impacted by events and economic conditions that will not prevail in the future. Therefore, it should not be assumed that future performance of any specific security, investment product or investment strategy referenced in the article, either directly or indirectly, will be profitable or equal to the corresponding indicated performance level(s). No portion of the article shall be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any specific security or investment product or to engage in any particular investment or financial planning strategy. Any reference to a market index is included for illustrative purposes only, as it is not possible to directly invest in an index. Indices are unmanaged, hypothetical vehicles that serve as market indicators and do not account for the deduction of management fees or transaction costs generally associated with investable products, which otherwise have the effect of reducing the performance of an actual investment portfolio.