Getting Married? 8 Tips for Newlyweds on Combining Finances
Making household finances work is one way newlyweds can help make their marriage work.
Getting married? 83 percent of couples fight about money, according to Debt Reduction Services. Making household finances work is one way newlyweds can help make their marriage work. Both should agree on how to coordinate household accounts and debt by having constructive conversations. Even though this is not the most romantic topic, it will contribute to a happier marriage.
Once the honeymoon is over, focus some attention on your shared financial lives. The Building MI Financial Future Financial Toolkit from the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services offers these tips:
- Request a free copy of your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. This information tells you about your use, management and payment history of loans and financial obligations. You might also get credit score estimates from FICO. Then you can objectively analyze the strengths and any weaknesses in the reports, including high debt amounts or discipline about making timely payments.
- List all sources of income and expenses. Using all pay stubs, account statements, monthly bills and debt obligations, disclose everything financial to each other. Then you can make a monthly spending plan for handling monthly expenses and establish a debt prevention and/or elimination plan.
- Open a joint checking account to pay for household expenses. Pay for all marriage-related bills, including housing, food, necessary clothing, vacation, transportation, cell phones, etc. If neither of you had credit-related problems, both names can be on the account. If one person has poor credit, you may choose to have your account in only one name. Consider automating your household bills payments, plus setting up separate accounts for each of your savings goals.
- Decide who is going to pay for what.
- Option 1: Combine incomes and consider all expenses and debts as one.
- Option 2: Assign certain payments to one or the other. This might depend on who had loan obligations prior to the marriage.
- Option 3: Pay ongoing expenses based on the percentage of income contributed.
- Discuss the relationship each of you has with money. Is one of you a saver and one a spender? Talk about the potential consequences and agree on a workable solution.
- Consider opening a savings account for an “emergency or rainy day fund”. Unplanned emergencies happen. As a couple, you should have a goal about how much is enough for unexpected expenses or emergencies. In addition, the recommendation is to set aside several months of earned income to prepare for an unplanned loss of future income. Decide together on a monthly amount to save which fits into your budget and is sustainable.
- Tip: While many couples choose to pursue a joint checking account, this method may not work for all couples. Whether you have a joint account or separate accounts to pay household expenses, the key is to communicate, have a bill payment plan, and pay bills on time.
- Update your beneficiaries. Check any employer-sponsored retirement plan, IRAs, annuities, and life insurance policies to update the beneficiary information.
- Take care of your future selves now. Contribute to your employer-sponsored retirement plan and/or IRA. The recommendation is 15 percent of your combined gross pay or the maximum amount allowed by the IRS. This is a great time to talk about your retirement goals that will require financial planning and strategies. Further, decide on a homeownership plan including thinking about if, where and when to buy a home and its cost. Discuss any education and professional training plans.
The first year of marriage typically includes many lifestyle adjustments. Setting goals and planning to save are best practices to help make your financial hopes and dreams come true. Having a spending plan shows your sense of control and willingness to set aside now for the future. Discussing and agreeing on financial adjustments should make your financial lives go smoother. Financial planning takes time, patience, and discipline. Find more information about spending plans, reasons for and ways to save, credit and debt, homeownership, and many other topics at MIMoneyHealth.org.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://bit.ly/MSUENews. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).