For recently engaged couples, the excitement of wedding planning can often overshadow planning for your life after the big day. However, taking some time before your wedding to assess your joint financial goals—and strategies for achieving them—can pay off in a big way later down the road.
In fact, making money discussions a part of your marriage may help keep your relationship healthy. Ninety-four percent of people who say that they have “great marriages” report that they discuss their money dreams with their partner, compared to 45 percent of people who say their marriage is “okay.”
To get your marriage off to a healthy financial start, say “I do” to these five money moves:
1. Discuss Your Existing Debt
Nearly two-third of marriages start off in debt. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Talk with your partner about any debt you each currently have and plans for paying it down. Consider whether you want to work together paying off debts together or keep them separate. Also, be aware that in most states, any debt you incur during your marriage belongs to both of you. Make a plan for spending and incurring debt after you're married—set some rules around what credit cards should and shouldn't be used for and when to apply for new ones.
2. Review Your Personal Assets
Similar to your debts, you’ll also want to review what financial assets each of you own. Do an inventory of your savings, retirement and brokerage accounts, insurance policies, real estate, and other assets. Talk about whether what will happen to your assets once you join forces—will one spouse become part-owner of the other’s house, for instance. Consider cars, retirement accounts, and even businesses. In some cases, you may want to discuss a prenuptial agreement. Such agreements are becoming more common, and they denote how you'd divide personal assets should you divorce.
3. Decide on a Joint Budget
If you haven’t already, examine your individual and joint expenses and get a sense of your household’s spending habits. Each person may have a different approach to spending; that’s fine. You may track every dollar, and your spouse may be more comfortable with spontaneous purchases—or vice versa. Find some common ground about how much you spend jointly and as individuals. In many cases, new couples determine a purchase amount that requires a conversation before the purchase is made. That figure will vary by couple, but whether it’s $100 or $1,000, determine what you believe warrants joint approval.
4. Talk About Short-Term Savings Goals
One of the benefits of getting married is the ability to ramp your savings power, for near and longer-term goals. Regarding the former, talk with your partner about big expenses that you both anticipate within the next year or two. Perhaps one person is headed to graduate school or you’d like to take a big trip. Make a plan for how you’ll save for that goal. Explore whether you’ll need to cut back on your expenses to do so. Decide whether you'll save jointly or one person will save more of their salary than another.
5. Plan for the Long-Term
Lastly, discuss your long-term financial goals. When do you both envision retiring and how do you plan to make that happen? How much have you already saved for these goals? And what concerns do you have about meeting them? Do you have big career moves you want to make, are you planning on having children, moving, or buying a home together? Get your ideas out and discuss them together. Then talk through how you can make those financial goals a reality—examine your current savings levels and evaluate whether you can put more toward these big aims. Investigate different approaches to personal finance and savings and find one that works for both of you.
Your wedding is a celebration of the relationship that you cultivated in the present and for the future. Bring money issues into your marriage early, and you'll ensure that you and your spouse on the same page when it comes to small expenditures and large financial goals.