Starting to discuss finances early in a marriage helps form good habits of communication and facilitates shared budgeting for the future. Here are some financial tips for married couples that can help you successfully manage your money and prepare for the future.
Your parents’ money approach doesn’t have to be your money approach. Maybe only one of your parents handled the family finances. Maybe your parents seldom discussed money. You and your spouse should approach your shared finances your own way and discover what works best for you.
1. Schedule a monthly money check-in.
Make it part of your routine to sit down together and discuss your shared money. Talk about the state of your joint assets and any unforeseen expenses (or windfalls) that have come up recently. Make a point of doing this regularly, so both of you are fully informed on your family finances.
2. Budget together as a couple.
It’s important to know where your money’s coming from and where it’s going every month. This is how to avoid going into debt, or how to successfully get out of debt. Combining your finances often makes you and your spouse more aware of all your expenses.
3. Establish individual checking accounts.
This is called the “yours, mine, ours” approach, where you each have some autonomy over shared money. Buying your spouse a birthday gift with money from your joint account would give away the surprise. Keeping an account for yourself allows you a bit of financial freedom and helps organize your spending.
4. Set a “let’s talk” spending threshold.
You don’t need to have a conversation before one of you spends $20 on lunch. But $500? Or $1,000? It would probably be best to discuss that first. Figure out what the “let’s talk” amount is for you as a couple, and agree neither of you will ever be left out should the other make a big purchase.
5. Be aware of your spouse’s debt.
When you apply for a loan as a married couple, banks assess both of your credit scores. If one person is carrying significant debt, your application could be denied. Be aware of both of your credit scores, and prepare for how to look your best on an application.
6. Don’t feel pressured to buy a home right away.
If you live in an expensive housing market, buying a home may not be realistic for a while. And that’s OK. If renting makes the most sense on a cost level, rent, but contribute to an investment fund that builds equity over time, just as a mortgage on a property would.
7. Prepare for retirement before you prepare for your future children’s education.
Having children may not be part of your plan, but if it is, prioritize your future savings. You can get education loans, if necessary, but you and your spouse won’t be able to get retirement loans. Speak to a qualified financial professional to learn about retirement accounts and their loan option to cover education costs if necessary.
8. Decide how to approach family and money.
If a close friend or a family member approaches you for a personal loan, how will you respond? You and your partner should agree on a policy, so neither of you ever feel a friend or a family member is being treated unfairly when money is involved.