Congratulations, you just got married! You’re done with the cake testing, the napkin colors, and the seating chart. Let’s be honest, you might even feel like you shed a second job. Now that you’ve made it to the other side, you’re kicking off a completely new journey that is less about you and more about you two. As your lives return to normal, you’ll want to make a few adjustments to your finances to help you both settle into your new life.
Here are our 8 money tips for kicking off your marriage on the right foot:
With marriage comes shared expenses. Ideally you’ve had the money discussion prior to getting married, but if not, now’s a good time to start. To help, we’ve created a handy Combining Finances Guide that walks you through the important things to consider. The important thing to remember is that this is a very personal decision and each couple should choose a model that makes the most sense for them. I often hear couples say that they did it this way because their friends told them to or it’s how their parents did it. Well guess what: times have changed and you guys might have different opinions. If you’re curious, you can check out stories of how other young couples made the decision on The Money Date podcast.
Irrespective of how you combine your finances, your decisions will impact your partner. The most successful couples sit down and pick a Spending Number — the amount of money they’re comfortable spending up to before they sync up about it. Fun fact, the average spending number for an American couple is $400. But in my own research, I’ve heard everything from $20 to $5,000. Once you’ve both picked a spending number, make a commitment to talk about purchases above that number before you make them.
Because you’re about to have many shared expenses, you’ll want to open a joint credit or debit card to track them all. You can swipe this card for your dinners out, travel, and even utilities. Making that shift from Venmo’ing each other money to a joint card is an exhilarating experience! Just make sure you sit down and talk about whether a debit card or credit card makes sense. I’m a huge fan of using a credit card (to build credit/collect points), but my husband and I agreed from the first day that we would only put on it what we were able to pay in full at the end of the month. If you don’t feel confident about going the credit route, use a debit card instead.
With shared spending, you’ll need an account to pay for those expenses. For couples who are combining their finances entirely, it might be easier to pool your money in an existing account. For couples who are only merging things partially, it feels good opening a brand-new account. Either way, make sure you have a checking AND savings account. The checking will help you manage your monthly cash flow and your savings will help you build up an emergency fund for when life throws you a curveball. You can then setup rules for transferring money into these accounts to cover expenses like rent, credit card bills, or anything else.
Many of the couples whom I’ve spoken to say that this step is the hardest. Opening up your bank balances (and sometimes your debt) can be a vulnerable experience. But the same couples also talk about how much better they felt once they laid it all on the table. Whatever approach you end up taking, build a comprehensive list of all your accounts, balances, and usernames/passwords (1password has worked well for us). In case of an emergency, your SO should have easy access to your money in case you need it. But remember, with such information comes great responsibility! Don’t snoop on your partner or move money around without your partner’s consent. Zeta allows you to easily do this for free on our platform.
Now that you’re married, you might want to update your partner as your new beneficiary. Remember, there are many types of accounts that have this option including retirement and brokerage accounts and any of your insurance (health, life, etc). You might choose to do this across all accounts or only for a few.
This might seem morbid but having a will is just good planning. You never know what might happen to you (we’ve all cried through Titanic). In case of a medical emergency or even death, you want to try to reduce the stress your family will invariably feel. Check out Freewill (free) or Trust&Will (paid but quick and guided) who both help you do this. You might even be surprised what you learn about your SO as you go through this process.
If you changed your name, you’ll want to fill out Form SS-5 to get a new social security card. You’ll want to update your name on your bank accounts as well. Not doing this could delay your tax refund, especially if your return doesn’t match the name Social Security has for your number.
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