Once you’ve tied the knot and made it past the honeymoon phase, reality sets in. Love won’t always save the day, but healthy communication offers you a fighting chance. Money arguments can destroy a marriage. You didn’t “jump the broom” to spend an eternity quarreling about financial issues. So while the two of you are settling into your new life as one, a money talk should be at the top of your list of priorities. Even if you have an idea about how your partner thinks finances should be handled, now is the time to firm up your understanding of the details.
Here are five points you need to address:
1. Lay Down the Law
Will there be “money rules” in your marriage, or will the two of you be permitted to spend as you please? If both of you are on the same page about exercising responsible spending habits, half of the battle is already won. But if you’re on opposite ends of the spectrum, you need to establish some rules — especially if one of you earns more than the other.
Address whether there will be restrictions on spending, such as the amount of spending permissible without the other partner being notified or present. Also, determine whether the two of you will share joint financial accounts. Remember, this is not the time to have a shouting match. Instead, hold an adult conversation about each of your distinct philosophies on money and how you will work together to accomplish your objectives as a union.
2. Make Plans for Your Money
Begin by drafting a comprehensive list of your financial goals, from short-term and mid-range to long-term. Don’t assume your spouse wants to purchase a lavish home, head out for fine dining once a week and take an annual vacation to the Bahamas because that’s what you have in mind. Next, create a spending plan that incorporates your financial goals. If you don’t have enough income to meet your objectives, either adjust your goals or find ways to earn more money. Don’t expect to nail your budget the first time around. It may require occasional tweaks, but you must start somewhere.
3. Discuss Debts
This can be painful, especially if you have more than $100,000 in student loan debt while your spouse went to college on a full ride. Hard feelings may arise if one spouse now has to carry the weight of the other spouse’s poor decisions in the past — particularly if the indebted person has a lot of credit card debt. The key is to develop an understanding from the start about how debts will be paid off. If that plan doesn’t work, keep talking and make adjustments.
4. Sift Through Those Policies
If your partner falls ill, will your income be sufficient to pay the bills until he or she returns to work? Even worse, what if your spouse dies? Are there plans in place to cover future household expenses and pay for the children’scollege education? When you tie the knot, you have to consider these things. You need adequate health insurance and some form of disability coverage to carry your family through a long illness. Consider life insurance, particularly if you have children, to replace income if one of you dies.
5. Beef Up Your Nest Egg
The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be, assuming you don’t start borrowing or taking withdrawals from your accounts. So don’t neglect retirement planning, or you’ll find yourself working much longer than you planned.
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