Marriage and Money: Tips for a Financially Happy Couple
Research shows that couples in healthy marriages are twice as likely to talk about their money dreams together. Whether you're about to get married, are recently married, or have been married for a few years, it's always a good idea to make sure that you and your spouse have a shared understanding of how to manage your finances.
Money is also the number one issue married couples fight about. When you marry, you’re combining assets, but you’re also taking on their debts. So, is there such a thing as a financial happily-ever-after? Here are things to consider to help make the most of your money in your shared life together.
Yours, mine, or ours. – Should you have shared or separate accounts?
There is no one "right answer" for how to combine your finances. Different styles will work better for some couples, depending on your preferences. Make sure you are honest about your expectations and check in with each other along the way.
Some couples like to have separate bank accounts to maintain a sense of control over their own paycheck. Other couples have a joint account where both spouses' paychecks get deposited each month. Another option is to maintain separate spending accounts for each person, but with one joint account where shared bills like rent/mortgage, car payments, groceries, and other expenses can be paid.
Create a money plan together.
- Discuss who will be responsible to pay big ticket items like the mortgage each month and who will pay for utilities and other ongoing bills. Also, decide who will balance the checkbook.
- Be open and talk about money issues. For example, if one of you makes more money than the other, does the higher-income spouse pay a higher share of the bills?
All of these items can be worked through, but it helps to have the conversation early, even before you get married. No matter how you decide to manage your everyday finances, make sure you are working as a team and being open with each other.
Budget for Shared Success
Especially if you have recently moved in together for the first time, it's important to sit down together and look at your monthly expenses and create a budget. Make sure you understand how much money you're spending (together) each month on key categories like housing, insurance, transportation, food, restaurants, gym memberships, subscriptions, phone bills, and debt payments (whether it's student loans, car payments, or others).
Ways to cut expenses as a couple
Looking at your budget together is especially useful because you might discover some expenses that can be cut or reduced.
- What if you could get a better deal on a shared gym membership now that you're married?
- Can you switch your phones to a Family Plan?
- Are there any ongoing subscriptions or streaming service memberships that you're both signed up for that you could combine or cut?
Making a budget is a way to set your financial priorities as a couple and live according to your values.
Save for Your Shared Future
Combining your finances will hopefully make your life bigger. Marriage can give you additional resources and efficiencies that you might not have had when living on your own. You might be able to afford a bigger house now, you might be able to get out of debt faster, and you might be able to save more money for retirement. Whatever your financial goals might be, make a detailed financial plan together so you can cut unnecessary spending and save more money for your future. Here are things to consider:
- Retirement Savings: Take a look at each of your 401(k) plans or other tax-advantaged retirement savings plans that you might have at your jobs.
- Are you each saving the maximum amount to get a match from your employer?
- Can you boost your retirement savings contributions?
- If one of you has a more generous 401(k) plan, can you have that person save more for retirement?
Make sure you are combining your resources effectively and making the most of the opportunities available to you.
- Managing Debt: What if one of you has some debt, such as student loans or credit card debts that you brought into the marriage? Often, especially for young couples, people are reluctant to ask their spouse to help pay off “their debt." But once you are married, your finances are combined, and you are on the same team; it's not about “your money" anymore, it's about “our money."
Even if one of you is a saver and one is a spender, even if one of you earns a much higher income or has a larger amount of debt, you need to make a plan together to get on the same page, pay off your debts, and build a stronger financial foundation for your life.
Managing money as a couple is a way to get to know each other better and to re-align your financial goals with your shared personal values. Planning for your financial future is a great opportunity to clarify what you want from your money and how you can both use your money to achieve your life goals. Strengthening your finances as a couple can also strengthen your love.