Are you engaged to be married or recently married? Getting marriedspouse means combining all aspects of your life, including your finances. Being open and upfront from the start is truly the best way to begin a marriage even if you believe many of the conversations will be difficult. As a couple, you can stay committed to strong financial help to set yourself up for a lifetime of love and happiness not hampered by financial woes.
A study conducted by American Express found that 20% of married couples waited until after marriage to talk about finances. It was also found that 91% of those surveyed found reasons to avoid financial discussions with a spouse.
Some things you may want to consider is to talk about your financial memories, assess your current habits, get into a financial fitness routine, and set goals. Once you have addressed everything you are afraid of, talks about finances will be nearly painless!
If you are ready to change your financial health for the better, and keep it strong, as you begin a new life with your spouse, take advantage of these helpful tips:
- Talk about your financial memories. The way you grew up thinking about money does affect you as an adult. The conversations you grew up with, the habits your parents had, and the stress or relief caused by money does contribute to your financial attitudes. It is natural to have different viewpoints, but recognizing these differences in your conversations with one another is essential.
- Assess your current habits. This can be done in generalities and in specifics. In general, questions about your current habits address your ability to save, if you are making enough money, and how you would spend an influx of money. To get a closer look of your spending habits, print out your bank statement and calculate the money you spend and where it goes or set up your accounts on a financial application like Mint.
- Create a budget based on your needs and goals. Again, a financial application will help you stick with your budget. Your budget should consider your essential costs like housing and food and your regular discretionary spending (be honest with yourself here).
- Get into a financial fitness routine. If you set up a financial fitness routine that involves biweekly or monthly assessment, you will always know if you are on track with your finances.
- Tally up your assets and debts. Systematically go through your financial documents to get an accurate picture of how many assets you have like your retirement accounts, real estate investments, and money in your savings. Do the same thing for your debts in all of your accounts.
- Go over your individual credit reports. Many people are fearful of going over their credit reports because they feel like these numbers will be tough to face. Going over your credit report is an excellent idea because you should always know your approximate credit score and you can catch errors in your report. Catching a mistake is one of the advantages you can get from assessing your finances with your new spouse.
- Set a financial goal for emergency funds. Just as you did when you were single (and if you didn’t now is a perfect time to start), calculate the numbers you would need for emergency funds. You should plan for living comfortably for a time period of three to six months.
- Set a financial goal for a one to five-year time period. These financial goals are attainable within the first few years of your marriage. One of the ways you can achieve your goals is by determining a pre-set amount to have removed from your bank account every time you are paid.
- Set long-term financial goals. A long term financial goal may be something like saving for your child’s education or for retirement. Discussing with your spouse where you imagine yourself in the long-term may lead to some enlightening conversations then can direct your path for the better.
- Discuss how you will plan your accounts. Every couple has different beliefs about their banking accounts but you should decide together where you plan on having joint accounts, separate accounts, or a combination of both. If your credit scores are drastically different, it may be in the best interest for each spouse to have his or her own account.
- Decide who will be in charge of which bill payments. Most couples choose one person to be responsible for the bills. Looking regularly at your money helps you from getting in over your heads. It is all too easy to increase your bills with small upgrades of cell phone plans, more expensive television plans, and so on. Your spending habits can easily get off track, especially when your salary is consistent.
- Discuss big expenses. It may take some time to get used to but making larger purchases after you have merged finances should be a team decision. A study conducted by Citi found that 56% of respondents made major purchases without contacting their partners. Many couples discuss any purchases above a set amount.
- Update the beneficiaries on all of your accounts. If you have any life insurance policies, retirement policies, and other accounts that require a beneficiary, then set your new spouse as the beneficiary of the account. This makes good legal and fiscal sense for every person. While you are doing so, you may want to address the writing of a will, designate your spouse as power of attorney, and decide if you should assign him or her as a health care proxy in case you are incapacitated or cannot make decisions.
- Talk about the role of family in your finances. This may come back to how you were raised but the way you see lending money to family and friends could be very different than the way your spouse sees this. Discuss if you plan on saying yes or no to people that may seek you out for financial help.
- Seek the help of a financial professional. Many couples feel like they are in over their heads when it comes to their finances. An expert can help you get a handle on your finances without making you feel overwhelmed. Going with your new spouse will help you direct your attention to the issues that are most important at the present time.
For couples committed to strong finances throughout their marriage, there is nothing better than creating a plan and sticking to it for a lifetime.
If you need an expert opinion regarding your financial situation, consult the West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys at The Law Office of Kelley & Fulton. We are available by phone at 561-491-1200 or visit us online. Our attorneys can assess you and your spouse’s finances to see if bankruptcy is an option you should consider.
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