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 a fighting chance.
So while the two of you are sorting everything out and settling into your new life as one, a money talk should be at the top of the list of priorities — if you haven’t already gotten to it. And let’s face it: Not all of you have done it.
Maybe you have an idea about your partner’s perspective on how the finances should be handled, either from planning the wedding together or premarital counseling. But now it’s time to firm up your understanding of the general concepts and the details to alleviate the risk of arguments over money later on. They can destroy a marriage.
Yes, money is a difficult topic to address, but it’s better to talk about it now, rather than grow disgruntled and angry because you haven’t come to terms over it.
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? I strongly advise against the latter. Unless you’ve inherited a fortune or had some other wild stroke of luck, we all need limits. A basic rule of personal finance is to spend less than you earn. (Plus, I wonder how your ancestors would feel if they knew you were squandering their hard-earned wealth, but that’s a different issue.)
If both of you are on the same page in terms of exercising responsible spending habits, half of the battle is already won. But if you’re on opposite ends of the spectrum, you’re going to need some rules in place.
While you’re at it, be sure to address any restrictions on spending, such as the amount permissible without the other partner being notified or present. Also, determine whether the two of you will share joint accounts. It’s your prerogative, but I think having totally separate accounts can lead to trust issues, especially if hard times arrive and one party is hiding funds from the other.
Remember, this is not the time to have a shouting match, but 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 midrange to long term. Don’t assume that 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 had in mind.
Next, you’ll want to create a spending plan that incorporates your financial goals. Not enough income to even come close to meeting any of your objectives? You can either adjust your goals or find ways to earn more.
Don’t expect to nail your budget the first time around. It may require occasional tweaks, but you must start somewhere.
3. Discuss Debts
I know, this can be very painful, especially if you have more than $100,000 in student loan debt from medical school and your spouse went to college on a full ride.
Each of your debts could become a joint responsibility. But that doesn’t mean hard feelings won’t arise if one spouse carries the bulk of the weight because of the other’s poor decisions in the past — particularly if one spouse has a lot of credit card debt.
But 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. Check Your Insurance Policies
If your partner falls ill, will your income be sufficient to pay the bills until they return to work? Even worse, what if he or she dies? Are there plans in place to cover future household expenses and pay for college, assuming children are in the picture?
When you tie the knot, these are things that must be considered. You need adequate health insurance and some form of disability coverage to carry your family through a long illness.
You also want to have life insurance in place, particularly if you have children, to replace income if one of you dies. Term life policies are usually the better and much more affordable option.
5. Beef Up Your Nest Egg
I’ve emphasized the power of compounding interest time and again in my posts. 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 well beyond your desired years. Besides, who wants to watch their partner enjoying their retirement years while they continue to work because they didn’t plan well?
You didn’t jump the broom to spend an eternity quarreling about financial issues. If you put in the work to be in accordance with your mate at the beginning of your union, the marriage will be off to a great start, financially.
This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.
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