Marriage And Merging Money
Money is often an issue that tends to cause the most friction between a newlywed couple. In a world where the majority of people are concerned with their own personal well being, it is easy to forget that marriage is a mutual arrangement, not a solitary effort. Trust is a vital component in establishing a strong commitment in this shared life with your new spouse. A couple’s financial situation can be the source from which a newly forged partnership flourishes or the one thing that can sabotage a relationship.
As you begin your journey and build a future together, carefully consider the following do’s and don’t’s of money management in marriage.
Establish an understanding that you and your spouse have made a commitment to each other and that the majority of monies should be shared. Create a household budget and manage the mutually held funds accordingly. All should be considered “ours, not mine.”
Create Bank Accounts
Create three separate bank accounts. One individual account for each spouse and a joint account where an agreed upon amount will be deposited monthly based on a percentage of earnings. The joint account will function as the expense account for the household from which all monthly bills are satisfied.
Pay Off Debt
There are very few investment decisions a couple can make that have a greater return than eliminating debt. Paying off credit cards or loans with exorbitant interest rates of say 15-20% or more is the economic equivalent of an investment with the same return. Incorporate debt payments into the monthly budget and always strive to pay more than the minimum payment. The balance of remaining money should be used for an emergency fund; even $20 a week compounds quickly and can help in the event of an unexpected surprise.
The Do Not’s
Retirement years appear to be far off and are oftentimes overlooked in the financial planning process as you have more pressing issues to deal with after recently being married. However, it is imperative that you set aside a predefined amount each month for retirement, regardless of what you earn. Utilize your employer’s retirement savings plans especially if they offer a matching contribution as this is free money at no charge to you while providing significant tax benefits. According to the New York Times, odds are strongly against you in saving enough money to support your retirement.
According to Forbes, 31% of Americans polled attest to having lied to their spouse about money. Newlyweds can circumvent the frustration and stress that comes along with deception by formulating a set of rules and talking openly about finances. Create a budgeting plan and stick to it.
Take On Additional Debt
Living within your means is easier said than done, but it is important to not overspend and ensure your financial future. Budgeting to live slightly below your means is ideal, as you then have the ability to save something and get one step closer to financial freedom. Debt acquired prior to a marriage and how it is handled can become quite complicated. Nothing can substitute the time spent consulting with a professional such as an attorney or accountant to determine how this type of debt is managed in accordance with state laws and other regulations.
This list is by no means exhaustive but discussing these “do’s and don’t’s” is an enormous stride in the right direction. As these discussions commence, additional concerns are sure to arise and keeping an open and honest discourse about money will pay off in numerous ways.