Being a newly married couple is an exciting milestone in your relationship. It is the beginning of a new chapter with your partner. With this new stage comes a lot of new changes, and with new changes, comes new challenges. Maybe this is your first time living together or sharing finances. Both can be intimidating bridges to cross, especially as you are forming your new life together as a married couple.
While this is an exciting moment, it’s tough to figure out the best strategy to combine two financial worlds. What happens to your debt? Who pays for the car? Do you split your Netflix accounts? These are just a few of the questions that may arise when thinking about how to merge finances with your partner.
There isn’t one plan that works for all couples. Some want to pay for everything together while others want to maintain their independence. Maybe you don’t even agree on which high-level approach to take. Don’t worry, we are going to walk you through some important steps to make this financial transition a little easier.
Step 1: Get honest about your current financial situation
Start by clearly defining your current financial situation. It’s important that you are both on the same page about where you are at. Be transparent with your partner about about salary, expenses, credit scores, etc. Make it clear that it is a no-judgement zone — whatever is brought up will be discussed in a fair and open-minded way.
Step 2: Decide on long and short term financial goals
Now that you’ve discussed where your finances stand as a couple, it’s time to talk through your goals. Before you mention budget plans, joint accounts, and other financial topics, you need to get clear on where you want to go. Think about where you want to be in the next 1, 5, 10, etc. years.
Do you see yourselves moving? Switching careers? Having kids? Buying a house? Retiring at the beach?
Your goals as a couple will affect all of your financial decisions going forward. Having this discussion makes merging finances easier because you know you are on the same page about where you want to be.
Step 3: Decide between joint versus separate accounts
Once you’ve laid out your goals, now you have to decide on how you will get there. Many couples come across the tough dilemma deciding between joint vs. separate accounts. On one hand, you’d love to create a joint account, combine earnings with your partner, and have an official financial union. But, on the other hand, you want to maintain your independence and keep your finances to yourself.
Both sides of the spectrum have various pros and cons that will help guide you through your decision and narrow down which choice works best for you.
Check out the Pros and Cons of Joint and Separate Accounts.
Step 4: Agree on a budget plan (saving vs. spending)
Organizing your finances is especially tough when you and your partner don’t handle your money in similar ways. Maybe you’re a saver and they’re a spender (or vice versa). Whatever your financial situation may be, trying to create a budget plan around 2 lifestyles is a difficult situation to navigate.
If you don’t even know where to start, you’re not alone. Only 30% of Americans have a long-term financial plan that includes savings and investment goals according to the Bureau of Statistics. Over 80 million millennials have nothing saved because budgeting money is scary and stressful. However, this is an opportunity to create a customize a personalized budget plan that works for you and your partner.
If you’re looking for a simple budgeting formula to start, try the 50/30/20 rule and edit it as you see fit.
Step 5: Create an emergency fund
As a newly married couple it is extremely important to have an emergency fund prepared. If you’ve never had this in the past, you’re not alone. According to a 2017 GoBankingRates survey, about 67% of millennials have less than $1,000 in their savings account, and 46% of us have a balance of $0 sitting in a savings account.
Regardless of your lifestyle, having at least $1,000 saved is an important goal for couples. You may think you don’t need one of these funds when you accidentally pop a tire, drop your phone in the sink, or discover a mouse infestation in your home. It’s these random life surprises that can put you in a tough place and build up credit card debt.
Start building your emergency fund here.
Step 6: Talk about money regularly
Money is one of the least glamorous parts of being in a relationship. Money talk leads to tough conversations, and tough conversations lead to stress, anger, and resentment. Because of this, most couples avoid this conversation at all costs. Sound familiar?
It gets even harder to discuss this topic as you embark on your new life together as a married couple. It is extremely important to have a sit down conversation about money and finances with this person.
According to research from TD Bank, over 50 percent of couples combine their money with 70 percent collaborating on major purchases. This makes having the “money conversation” a necessity for every couple.
Use this agenda to guide your next money conversation.
Not married yet? Take a look at out Budgeting Guide for Unmarried Couples