If you are getting married, it can seem like there is an endless list of things to plan for, including how to finance the big day. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that preparations only need to lead up to when you say “I do.” Planning to get married and planning to be married are two very different things—especially when it comes to your financial future.
Talking about money is hard for many people, but having important financial conversations before the wedding can help avoid stress and frustration later, ultimately giving your marriage a stronger foundation.
Joint Accounts, Separate Accounts, or Both?
Discuss with your fiancé whether to combine your checking and savings accounts, continue maintaining separate accounts, or take a hybrid approach.
There isn’t a right or wrong way to title and maintain your bank accounts as a married couple; financial professionals have mixed opinions on which method is best. Some advocate for joint accounts as a means of creating trust and fostering more open communication about finances. When all of a couple’s income flows into one account and all bills and expenses come out of that account, it’s easy to get a clear financial picture at any moment.
Others argue for the sense of independence and autonomy that separate accounts can provide. When each spouse manage his or her own separate finances and contributes a pre-determined share toward joint expenses like housing and utilities, there’s a better chance that both parties will remain financially literate and there can be less stress associated with having to justify or explain purchases.
Establishing and maintaining joint accounts to pay combined expenses but maintaining separate accounts for individual spending may work well for some couples—intertwining part of your financial lives while still allowing for some autonomy.
Aligning Your Goals
Before tying the knot, you and your fiancé should also have conversations about your financial future. Talk about your goals and about where you are today. If you don’t know how much (or whether there is any) debt your fiancé is carrying, bring it up. Similarly, don’t try to hide your own debt. While one spouse’s responsibility for the other’s debt will vary depending on state law, too much debt on either side of the equation could end up crippling your savings efforts.
If you don’t discuss income or spending habits until after your wedding, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable and financially difficult situation. According to a SunTrust survey, 47 percent of couples surveyed said they had different spending habits than their partners.
Talk about how you each approach saving and spending as individuals. Then, talk about what type of money habits can help you meet your joint financial priorities and goals. You may both need to make some adjustments to your current financial management habits.
If you are marrying later in life, you may have already accumulated significant investments and retirement savings. Be open with your fiancé about what you have, and ask them to be open with you too. You should also talk to a financial professional about how to best position and title your accounts, and about whether changes should be made to existing beneficiary designations, to reflect your new financial reality as a soon-to-be-married couple.
Straightforward Conversations and Planning Can Make the Financial Transition from “Me” to “We” Smoother
Planning for your marriage and a future together with your partner is an exciting time in your life. By including finances in those plans and starting an open dialogue about money now, you’ll be able to start the next chapter of your lives with confidence and a shared understanding of your financial picture.