When you first contemplate marrying the love of your life, everything seems just right. You believe you can put up with anything, and you think that any difficulties can be smoothed over if you face them together.
Pretty soon, though, you are likely to find that not everything is perfect all the time. Being a newlywed means you have a few things to get used to, and that includes the way you handle your finances.
As you begin to navigate the waters of newlywed finances, here are 5 money tips that can help you out:
1. Get to the Bottom of Your Money Motivations
First of all, it’s important to get to the bottom of your money motivations. This is about more than figuring out whether each of you is a spender or a saver. Share things you like spending money on (things vs. experiences), as well as your reasons for some of the money decisions that you make. Really get into the “why” behind your financial decisions. It’s easier to understand yourself and your partner, and easier to create shared goals, when you both understand what makes you tick.
2. Decide on Separate vs. Joint Spending
Many couples struggle with trying to figure out whether or not to combine finances. At some point you will need to decide on whether you will keep things separate, pool everything. Even if you have largely separate finances, it still makes sense to arrange for some shared spending. Shared expenses, like mortgage payments and utilities, can be paid from a shared account that you each contribute to.
And, even if you combine your finances, it makes sense for each partner to have some money available to spend as he or she sees fit. Talk about these issues, and determine how your financial situation to look.
3. Set Goals Together
If you want to accomplish anything together as a couple, you need to have shared goals. Whether you want to pay off debt or save for retirement or get a new TV, you have to be in agreement on the big stuff. It does you know good if you want to live a frugal lifestyle, and you keep trying to save money, if your spouse isn’t on board. You’ll be trying to keep things simple and inexpensive, while he or she spends. Neither of you is wrong, but you’ll both be frustrated.
Talk about what you both want out of life, and how you want to use your financial resources to accomplish those things. My husband and I have pretty much settled on a lifestyle that we both like, even though we have different money motivations. What keeps it all together is that we have similar over-arching goals, especially when it comes to retirement. These shared goals keep us focused on what’s really important to both of us, and brings us common ground.
4. Set Regular Money Check Ups
Get in the habit of regular money check ups as newlyweds, and you’ll develop a good habit that will help you out the rest of your life together. Check in regularly so that both of you can see what is happening with your finances, and so that you can discuss any changes to the situation, or issues that are coming up.
My husband and I have never been very good at this; he doesn’t like managing money. But we are to the point now where we do check about twice a year so that he understands where we are at, and what we can afford to do for the next six months or so. How I wish we’d developed the habit early on, so that he could used to talking about our financial situation, rather than fighting to try and get him to sit down twice a year to talk about money.
5. Observe the Financial Basics
One of the best things you can do for your financially-sound marriage is to start out by observing the financial basics. All of the worn-out money advice still applies. Start out on the right financial foot by:
- Living within your means
- Being wary of debt (and paying it down if you have it)
- Investing (at least contribute to your retirement accounts)
- Protecting your assets with adequate insurance coverage
Make it a point to do these things from the beginning of your marriage, and you’ll have a solid financial foundation that will serve you well for the decades to come.