When a couple gets married, they’re not only joining lives, they’re joining bank accounts. Each person brings to the relationship different attitudes and ideas about money. One of the keys to a happy and successful marriage is to get on the same page with your spouse about finances.
Here are 5 things that a couple thinking about getting married should consider before getting hitched.
1. Review your credit history and debt together
Before you get married, sit down and look over each others’ credit report. One person’s bad credit score is bad for the both of you. You don’t want to find out when you apply for a loan that your lovely wife racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt to pay for a shoe shopping habit while in college. By then it’s too late. Finding out each others’ credit score before you apply for a loan can help you decide whether to leave the person with the crappy score off the loan application so you can get a good rate. It’s important to know each others’ credit report before getting married. It will help you make decisions when taking out a loan.
2. Discuss financial goals
Find out each others’ financial goals and attitudes about money. Is your wife a spendthrift or a frugal monger? Does she want to save for a down payment on a house or does she want to be a renter? You can preempt money tension down the road by getting your goals and attitudes out in the open from the very beginning of your marriage. If one of you likes to spend and the other likes to save, your marriage isn’t doomed, you’ll just have to come to a compromise. Establish what this compromise is going to be at the beginning of your marriage.
3. Decide whether to have joint or separate accounts
The choice to have joint or separate accounts is entirely up to your personal preference. Each has their benefits and drawbacks. It also doesn’t have to be either/or. Many couples have a joint account for home expenses and maintain separate accounts for personal ones.
If you do decide to open up a joint account, make sure you both are aware of how much is in the account. You don’t want to have pay unnecessary overdraft charges.
4. Draft a budget together
Budgets aren’t sexy. They’re tedious and boring. Creating a budget with someone else makes it even harder because each of you have different priorities on spending money. While you might want to allocate more money for entertainment, she might want more money for groceries.
But creating a budget together is vital. It will help bring your spending habits more in-line with each other. It also makes BOTH of your aware of what’s going on in your finances instead of just one person being in the know.
I recently found a great (and FREE!) spreadsheet program based on the envelope budget system. It’s simple and easy to use. Download it, sit down with your gal, and get to cracking on a budget.
5. Decide who is going to head up the finances
The days of having the man have sole control over a couple’s finances are over. Couples these days often choose who is going to tend to the bills and bank accounts based on who has more of a desire to do it. It always seems that within a couple, one partner has more of a knack and interest in it than the other. If neither of you are inclined to head it up, you can always divvy up the tasks equally. Still, things tend to run smoothest when one person takes on most of the responsibly. But even if one partner does the lion’s share, the other spouse should be kept actively abreast of what is going on and be a part of all major decisions. You don’t want your wife to die and suddenly realize you have no idea what the state of your finances is.