Love is in the air. No, really. I’ve seen at least 10 engagements in the last three months blowing up my Facebook and Instagram feeds. While filled to the brim with happiness for these lovesick bride and grooms to-be, I couldn’t help but think to myself:
”Share my hard-earned cash with another human being for the rest of my life? Let my significant other take charge of my bills and find out all the dirty details of my bank account (or lack thereof?) No way José!”
But it’s a fact of life that when you tie the knot, you’re tying together your financial histories, too. For better or for worse.
So who better to turn to than my married friends? Here’s what these ladies (and gents) had to say to my burning questions about becoming a financially Dynamic Duo:
What are the first practical and legal financial steps we should know about before we get hitched?
“Have an honest conversation with each set of parents to discuss how they are willing to help with paying for the wedding. This will give you a better idea of what you and your now fiancé (yay!) will be responsible for financially. Start by each putting $150 into a shared account every two weeks. That’s almost $8,000 saved by the end of the year!” – Maddy & Matt B.
“Depends on the situation, but you need to come to an agreement on separate or pooled incomes. Legally, second marriages, kids, stepchildren, debt and estate funds all are important factors. If it’s a first marriage and you are dealing with a large inheritance, then you may seriously consider a prenuptial agreement.” -Bruce & Pam D.
Shared account? Two separate accounts? What is best?
“Keeping your own accounts also will help you be financially independent. You don’t have to ask the other if you can buy a new sweatshirt or a new pair of running shoes. This is also helpful if one of you tends to spend more than the other.” -Maddy & Matt B.
“We opened a joint account because we were looking into buying a home while also planning a wedding. We knew that as soon as we got married we would be using a joint account exclusively. We did leave my husband’s account open at his bank and keep an emergency fund there…our long term goal is putting a month or two of total expenses into that account as padding.” - Alyssa and Chris G.
What questions should I be asking about my significant other’s finances before we get married?
“In my case, I didn’t know just how much student loan debt my Ph.D candidate of a husband had until the time when we had to start paying it back. Knowing how much debt your significant other has can be a good indicator of the type of spender they are.” - Brigitte & David B.
“Be aware of their student loan debt first and foremost! This can be a big chunk when compared with yours. Also, look into their credit card debt and any other recurrent expenses, like car payment, membership fees, etc.” -Alyssa & Chris G.
What are the biggest personal and financial adjustments once you get married?
“Sharing the account. As a single person you only have to manage your money and expenses and now there are two people involved, making it more difficult to monitor.”- Mike & Abby S.
“Determining who makes the decisions and who has the gift of managing cash versus managing an account.” – Bruce & Pam D.
“My husband and I grew up in two completely different lifestyles. He grew up extremely frugally, with the mindset that nothing goes to waste. I, on the other hand, grew up in a family that didn’t spend excessively, but I would say we were less strict than my husband’s family. These values certainly followed both of us.” – Brigitte & David B.
So…you’ve got a lot of student loan debt and a couple of credit cards that you’re working on paying down. How does this affect the new husband/wife?
“As hard as it is to do, we complete a monthly budget that is committed to paying more on our high interest credit cards. Once the card with the highest interest is paid off (that day can’t come soon enough) then we move to the next highest interest rate card, etc. Tax return…the majority goes to the highest rate credit card.” – Alyssa and Chris G.
Ouch…your new husband has a pretty low credit score. What should you do?
“Honestly, I’m no guru, but I think it’s important to meet with a financial planner and have him/her set up a plan to raise the score and discuss the best course of action before joining your accounts.” – Marci & Shane T.
“As a couple, you are a team and you need to know what causes your spouse to have bad credit. Are they spontaneous spenders? Are they unorganized and forget to pay fees? Or, maybe, do they not have a budget? Help your spouse by avoiding trouble areas such as credit cards that have high credit lines. Work with your spouse on paying off the debt that has caused bad credit ratings. Focus on using your debit card or cash instead of a credit card. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it.” – Mike & Abby S.
My new spouse is a spender and I am a saver. What do I do?
“I never couponed, wouldn’t go back to the store to save fifteen cents and wouldn’t have looked for a sale before going to buy a rogue item that I really didn’t need. This all comes back to open communication. I was open to letting my husband help me make decisions about how we shop at the grocery store and happy to let him help me make decisions.” -Alyssa & Chris G.
“Compromise or argue for ever after. Amen.” -Bruce & Pam D.
“It is good to have a balance. Money is designed to be used and spent, but for what purpose? There needs to be a balance.” -Mike & Abby S.
Getting married means stellar tax breaks right?
“NO, not always, but we always have fared better filing jointly.” – Pam and Bruce D.
“We’ve come to learn that there are a lot more factors affecting tax returns and tax breaks than just being married or owning a house. One thing I’ve learned about since we got married and started filing jointly is the student loan interest cap. As a household, we pay more than $7,000 in interest on our student loans for a tax year. However, the maximum we can claim on our taxes is $2,500; talk about a punch in the gut!” -Alyssa & Chris G.
What would you say is the plan of attack, in three to five steps, of planning a financially healthy life together?
“Reward yourselves! I think it’s important to be financially savvy and to save money, but it is also important to reward yourselves for good behavior.” – Brigitte & David B.
“List all your debt and when their payments are due. List all regular expenses you have during the month, and mark down all your income. Figure out what money you have left each month and adjust accordingly. Then create a list of financial goals you both want to achieve.” – Mike and Abby S.
“The 80-10-10 rule. 80 percent to live on, 10 percent savings, 10 percent giving. There are no other steps.” – Bruce and Pam D.
Married financial philosophy?
“Be transparent. No secrets.” – Brigitte & David B.
“Control your money, don’t let money control you.” – Mike and Abby S.
“TALK ABOUT MONEY. Don’t ignore it. It sucks to talk about, but it’s part of your life together.” – Maddy and Matt B.
“The other person is always right.” – Bruce and Pam D.
Thanks to my married friends for filling me in on the ups and downs of married financial life and all the checks to make before saying “I Do” to my new hubby’s finances. It’s good to know I still can bask in my financial independence when I eventually walk down the aisle. Better yet, it’s good to know different ways to combat financial hurdles with my boo along the way.
What about you? How have you handled money talks with your significant other?
Kimberly Carmichael believes that it’s hip to be square when it comes to your financial security. She hopes to shed light on how Millennials may relieve money burdens, overcome debt stress and understand the ins and out of adult budgeting one penny at a time.
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