Spring is a popular time for weddings. If you are planning yours, congratulations! It’s the beginning of a new chapter of your life. Although you may be currently caught up in planning the details of your wedding, keep in mind that successfully joining the lives of two people takes planning and organization that reaches far beyond the honeymoon. Marriage is a legal contract that intertwines your financial lives in a very real way. You can avoid a lot of common problems that plague married couples by being proactive in your financial planning. Make some agreements and plans now, before the wedding, to smooth the path you will walk together after the honeymoon.
Get on the same page.
How does each of you handle money? Are your financial practices similar or very different? Many single young people do not give a great deal of thought to their finances beyond paying their monthly bills and having some extra cash to have fun with. Some put away savings on the side; others spend until they are out of available funds. Getting married means joining your financial destinies, and for some, it also means sooner or later taking on the additional responsibility of children. To make this financial partnership work for all involved, it is important to take a unified approach to financial planning. Take the time to talk about budgeting, spending, saving, and investing, and create a joint financial strategy that takes everyone’s needs into account. Good topics to cover include
- Banking: Will you have a joint account, separate accounts, or both? What financial institution(s) will you use? What types of expenses will be paid out of each account?
- Budgeting: How will you manage your monthly income and expenses? Will you place limits on certain expenditures? What happens if you exceed your budget in any given month?
- Savings goals: Will you set aside a portion of your monthly income for savings? If so, do you have one or more purpose in mind for your savings? It is a good idea to have, at minimum, three months worth of living expenses in an emergency fund in case of unexpected hardships. If you do not already this cushion, how will you build it?
- Long-term financial goals (for example, home ownership, retirement, or college tuition): Will you put money into one or more retirement accounts, college savings funds, or other vehicles for long-term savings? A professional financial planner can help you find effective ways to save for your goals.
- Use of credit: People can have very different ideas about the role of credit cards in their financial lives. Failing to get together on this one can create a lot of stress down the road, so establish some guidelines from the outset. Will you use credit cards? If so, how will you use them? In whose name will they be taken out? Will they be paid off every month to avoid interest charges? If not, will you place a limit on how much you will charge without being able to pay it off?
- Planning to pay off debt: If one or both of you have debt coming into the marriage, decide how you will handle it. Will each of you be solely responsible for paying your own debts? Will one of you be the primary breadwinner and pay or help to pay the debts of the other? In what timeframe do you expect the debt(s) to be paid?
- Insurance: Discuss what insurance policies you will carry and what levels of coverage each will have. In the case of life insurance, decide on beneficiaries. If you currently have separate policies, you may save money by combining some of them. Talk to an insurance professional to determine the most cost-effective way to get the level of insurance that you need.
- Estate Planning: No one likes to think about the possibility of a partner dying before their lives together have begun, but refusing to entertain the possibility does not prevent it from happening; it only leaves you unprepared. Spending some time doing some basic estate planning can give you the peace of mind of having your financial bases covered, even when nothing else seems to be going right.
Family financial planning is one of our specialties. While you’re planning the wedding, don’t forget to plan for the marriage. Contact Boelman Shaw for a free consultation to get your prenuptial financial planning on track.
Material discussed herein is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only. Because individual situations will vary, the information shared here should be used in conjunction with individual professional advice.