The decisions involved in getting married might seem endless. What flavor should the wedding cake be? Should you even have a cake, or should you opt for a pile of donuts? Where will you live? Will both of you work? Kids now or in the future? Who is going to give up their favorite sofa, since both won’t fit in the new living room? Those are just a tiny sample of the questions you’ll face before and just after you get married. But some of the scariest questions – and those most likely to spark the most heated arguments – deal with money. It’s best to face those questions head on before they morph into marital monsters.
Talk About Your Finances
The kneeling is done, the question is asked. You’ve laughed and cried and called all the parents and friends. After a short time of celebration, it’s time to have the talk if you haven’t already. Ideally, you’ve entered the engagement with all finances on the table, but if you haven’t, then clear the air before you walk the aisle. Talk about your debts, your income, your savings, your credit score, and your plans and desires for the future. While married couples don’t have to agree on everything, you do need to agree on some of the major basics, including:
Create a Joint Budget
Whether you share money or not, you are going to share the same space. You probably don’t want to resort to college-dorm tactics, such as labeling all the food in the fridge, so you need to create a joint budget. Decide how much each person will contribute to the budget each month and plan accordingly to pay bills and meet joint needs. Make a decision about whether each person will then care for his or her own personal funds and spending once necessities are out of the way.
Update Accounts and Benefits Policies
Right after you’re married, take the time to make appropriate changes to financial accounts. If you don’t, you could end up with surprise access issues or problems with insurance payments or benefits. Women who are taking a man’s last name will need to update bank and financial records as soon as Social Security and DMV records are changed. Both individuals in the couple will need to make changes to insurance, retirement, and benefit policies to reflect marital status and a new beneficiary if appropriate.
None of these discussions or tasks are fun – certainly not when compared to wedding and honeymoon plans. But they are necessary for taking a strong first step toward financial stability together.