6 Tips for Newlywed Couples Combining Finances Discussing finances can often lead to arguments. Use these tips to pave the way for better communication. BY CHRISTINA STEINORTH MA MFT
It's not enough to just put money away and assume you and your spouse are on the same page…you need to talk.
“ Even if you have differences, just knowing and understanding your partner's financial attitudes and behaviors is essential if you want to have an honest, open relationship.”
When we're in love, we typically want to do and share everything with our partner. But is it a smart decision to make? In my work with couples over the years, I've seen how financial conflict can destroy even the best marriages. There are better times than others to make this leap with your partner.
Once you have an idea that your relationship is ready to handle "money talk," that's the time to begin talking about finances. You married this person for a reason—because you were compatible. Part of being compatible is having similar financial philosophies and goals. Even if you have differences, just knowing and understanding your spouse's financial attitudes and behaviors is essential if you want to have an honest, open relationship.
If your finances aren't already blended, the four- to six-month range into the marriage is usually a good time to start financial conversations. At this juncture, some of the newness of being married has worn off, and it's a propitious time to start talking about how both of you feel about money matters.
Here are some things to consider before combining finances and sharing all expenses:
1. Wait a year. While you should start the conversation earlier, wait a minimum of 12 months before you combine any type of finances. For the first 12 months of a marriage, we're usually on our best behavior. After that, we tend to let our guard down a little. If there are worrisome aspects of your partner's financial habits, they will probably start to show up after a year.
2. Make a budget together. The budget with your spouse should include everything—utilities, food, insurances (car, home, health, etc.), the expenses that go with raising a family if you plan to have children, pets, a rainy-day fund for emergencies, leisure time, luxuries, etc. Think of everything possible—you really can't be too prepared or detailed when it comes to budgeting.
3. Discuss financial goals. Talk about your financial goals, both short term and long term. Short-term goals would be things like paying off your car and student loans, or saving for something you need. Long-term goals would include items such as mortgages and retirement savings. Come to as much agreement as possible now. You can always revise as needed as your finances change over time.
4. Figure out spending behaviors. One of the best and most basic decisions to discuss is how the two of you will pay for things. Will you only buy things that you pay for in cash or will you use loans and/or credit? Is there a certain amount you can each spend without first consulting the other? Once you cosign on any debt or credit together, you are responsible for the repayment of it regardless of what happens to your relationship. Your marriage may not be forever, but your debt will be—until you pay it off.
5. Compare financial philosophies. If you have significant differences in your financial philosophies (e.g., if one of you is a spender, and one of you is a saver), don't think that your differences will just work themselves out. While they may, they most likely won't unless you can come up with some type of mutually acceptable plan. Don't be afraid to have the difficult conversations where finances are concerned. It doesn't mean you love your spouse any less, it just means you're a responsible adult and in fact want to nip problems in the bud because of your love.
6. Find your comfort zone. Use good judgment and don't agree to anything that makes you uncomfortable. We have gut feelings for a reason—listen to them. For example, if your partner says he wants to be able to have some investments or bank accounts that are confidential, ask him why. If you get a queasy feeling that he's trying to hide something from you, that's a red flag. Likewise, if your spouse makes a demand that feels unfair, speak up. Financial discussions aren't easy, but getting everything out in the open will make your marriage stronger and more trusting.