If there are wedding bells in your future, an important step is to figure out how to marry your financial lives together. There are four phases of this process, and getting it all right is a huge step in creating a smooth and rewarding financial life.
Before You Get MarriedIn my opinion, one important part of blending your financial lives happens before you get married. Unfortunately, most couples don't discuss finances before they decide to marry. Once you're engaged, it is easy to gloss over tough parts of money conversations. Everything is glowy and good when you're engaged! Don't let those lovey emotions prevent you from having serious discussions about your current financial status, how you got there, and where you hope to go in the future. It's actually easier to have these talks before you marry, for two reasons. First, even if it is hard, sharing earlier is less uncomfortable than sharing later, when it could seem like you were trying to hide things. Second, you're both feeling happy and optimistic about the future. If you're in this stage of a relationship, talk money now!
The Big DayThe wedding itself can have a big impact on the first few years of your married finances. First, the habits you develop during wedding planning will impact your decision-making and money sharing in the following years. Second, spending a lot on a wedding will make it harder to achieve other financial goals, such as paying off debt, building up savings, or making large purchases.
Integrating Your Financial LivesOnce you are married, you will need to take some time to integrate (most) of your finances. Whether you keep accounts separate, or join them, you must still be working within the same financial plan. It might take some time, but stick with it and make it a priority. You're building a life together, and finances are an important part of it.
Working TogetherManaging your money is a lifelong process. Continue to make the effort to talk about money regularly. Share your fears, goals, and dreams. You can't expect your spouse to help you achieve your goals if you don't share those goals! And spouses can be great at attacking financial fears.
Joining financial lives isn't always easy, but the results are well worth the effort. Take the time and face the tough topics, and you'll have better finances AND a better marriage.