Marriage doesn’t just bring people’s romantic lives together – it also brings their financial lives together! Newlyweds share their income, their expenses, and their assets. But with many people today marrying at an older age, after they’ve established independent careers and finances, merging financial lives can be more complicated than ever. Here are a few places to start after the honeymoon.
1. Merge Your Bank Accounts
Some couples choose to give up their individual accounts in favor of a single joint checking account for their shared income. That can make it easier to track money and pay shared expenses. Some couples choose to keep their existing accounts separate and decide who pays for what. Still other couples choose an in-between solution: they open a new account for expenses, and each spouse puts in a set amount each month.
2. Make a Budget
Think of a budget as a snapshot of your financial life together. It lets you see how much money you’re bringing in, how much you’re spending, and how much you’re saving. When you budget as a couple, it helps you to talk about your shared priorities, from vacations to buying a home to starting a family. Communicating about what matters to you can help prevent problems in the future and make for a happier marriage. Also, be sure to update your budget together, so it can reflect any changes in your lives.
3. Be transparent About Your Assets and Debts
If you want to start your marriage off on the right foot, don’t hide any of your finances. Lay it all out on the table – the good and the bad. Remember, your assets and debts become your partner’s assets and debts when you marry. Even if you’re ashamed of your financial past, you can overcome that as a couple. But without honesty and openness, you’re in for trouble.
4. File Your Taxes Jointly
The federal government gives major tax advantages to married couples. When you file jointly, you could see lower tax rates, a higher standard deduction, and special tax credits. It only makes sense to file separately under a few specific circumstances, such as when one spouse makes much less than the other and has a lot of medical expenses.
5. Choose Your “Jobs”
One spouse should never be in charge of all the finances. That leaves the other person out of the loop, and it means that decisions aren’t really made together. However, you can choose areas for each person to specialize in. For example, one person could handle insurance and taxes, while the other could be in charge of investments and paying bills. It’s still important for both spouses to know what’s happening, but it helps to split up the work.