Going from single to married means you’ll need to openly communicate with your new spouse about your finances. This includes how you’ll pay off debt, make big purchases, and achieve other goals together in the future.
Just like anything else in your marriage, you’ll make compromises along the way, but the first step is having a conversation and always keeping those lines of communication open.
So how do you start figuring out your finances as a couple? Here are five ways to ensure you and your partner are aligned with your money.
1. Figure out your total debt
If you haven’t had this conversation in detail yet, start with your debt. This will likely include student loans, car loans, credit card debt, and medical debt.
Write it all down and discuss how you’ve each been tackling your debt up until this point. Make a plan and figure out the best ways to pay down the debt as quickly as possible. You might join forces to pay it together and add more to the minimum payments each month.
The method you choose is up to you, your partner, and your financial situation, but be sure there are no surprises and remember to be open about your debt.
While you’re having this debt conversation, don’t forget to disclose your credit scores. If your new beau has credit issues, it could prevent you from making big purchases in the future, like a car or house. Use this time to figure out how you or your spouse can improve your credit score.
2. Talk about your spending and saving habits
Are you a spender but your spouse is a saver? By now, you might know your partner’s financial habits, but don’t let your assumptions deter you from having an open discussion.
Dig deep and communicate about the why when it comes to money. Perhaps your spouse is a penny-pincher because money was tight growing up. Maybe you overspend every time you’re stressed out or because you work hard and feel like you deserve some pampering.
Here are some questions to get this conversation started:
- What have you learned about money from your parents?
- How did you spend your allowance?
- What is your first money memory?
3. Create goals together
Start listing a few long- and short-term money goals you’d like to achieve, from buying a house to taking your dream vacation. Long-term goals should involve a discussion about retirement and how much you currently have saved.
Here are a few examples of short-term goals:
- Make summer travel plans.
- Set up a joint savings account that can serve as your emergency fund (try to save three to six months’ worth of living expenses).
- Pay off your credit card debt.
Here are a few examples of long-term goals:
- Pay off your student loan debt.
- Save for a house.
- Save for retirement.
This might also be a good time to discuss whether you should meet with a financial adviser to gain more insight on how to reach your retirement goals.
4. Set a monthly budget
Without a budget to guide you as a couple, you might set the intention to save and spend less but never actually execute on it. Once you’ve set your goals, take actionable steps to achieve them.
Hold yourself and your spouse accountable by creating a plan for each day, week, or month. For example, if you have $3,500 of credit card debt, set a goal to stop eating at restaurants and buying lunch and coffee every day.
Sign up for a free online budgeting tool together so you can track your progress and keep tabs on how much you’re spending.
5. Establish regular check-ins
Change your mindset if you think you’ll only need to have this money conversation once. Create weekly check-ins to discuss finances with your spouse and use this time to review your goals together.
Here are more financial topics you may want to cover during your regular check-ins:
- Changing beneficiaries for your 401(k) plans or IRAs.
- Creating or updating your wills.
- Reviewing your insurance (health insurance, renters insurance, car insurance, etc.).
- Calculating your net worth together.
How will you manage your finances moving forward?
After you communicate openly and establish your financial goals, figure out the mechanics. Some questions may include:
- Will you have a joint checking account for bills but also maintain separate accounts?
- Where will you keep your savings?
- Who will pay the bills each month?
You still have a lot to learn about each other and will likely go through a lot of changes in the first few years of your marriage. Having an honest conversation about your finances can help you create a trusting environment so you can enjoy a happy, satisfied, and fulfilling marriage together.