If you are getting married you no doubt have many exciting details to discuss with your spouse-to-be. But after you get back from the honeymoon, you'll want to have another discussion - about your finances. It might not sound glamorous, but couples who quickly "get on the same page" regarding their financial situation are actually taking a step that can help them immensely as they build their lives together.
As you start talking about your finances, be sure to cover these key topics:
- Separate or joint checking/savings accounts: Some couples create joint checking and savings accounts, others keep everything separate and still others find a middle ground - joint accounts along with smaller, separate accounts. There's really no one "right" way for everyone, but whichever method you choose, make sure you're both aware of where your money is, how it can be accessed, and by whom.
- Spending and saving: Newlyweds are often surprised to discover how different they are from each other in the area of spending versus saving. You don't have to try to radically change each other, but you both need to be aware that your spending and saving decisions now have greater consequences than when you were both single. To illustrate: If one of you is more of a spender and is used to running up big credit card bills, these actions can clearly affect both of you. To avoid problems of this type, you will need to communicate clearly with each other
- Goals - It's important for married couples to clearly establish their financial goals. Do you want to purchase a house? If so, when? If you're going to have children, will you want to help them pay for college? When do each of you want to retire? And what sort of retirement lifestyle do you have in mind? By answering these and other key questions, you'll be formulating a set of goals. And from there, you can devise a strategy for attaining these goals.
- Investment styles: Both you and your spouse will unquestionably need to invest if you are going to achieve your goals, such as a comfortable retirement. However, each of you may have a different investment style - for example, one of you might be an aggressive investor, willing to take more risk for the possibility of greater returns, while the other is more conservative, ready to accept lower returns in exchange for greater preservation of principal. To pursue your strategy for reaching your objectives, each of you may have to compromise somewhat on your "investment personality." To achieve this balance, you may need to consult with a financial advisor.
- Debts: Both you and your spouse may be bringing in debts, such as student loans or credit cards, to the marriage. You don't necessarily have to do everything possible to get rid of these debts immediately, but you should set up a reasonable payment plan that will allow you to lower your overall debt load so you can free up money to invest for the future.
Finances are an important part of any marriage. By communicating regularly and working together, you and your spouse can build a solid financial foundation for your lives together.