Paycheck Chronicles

Mixing Money When You Get Married

Mixing money is one of the hardest parts of a new marriage.  Money problems are one of the leading causes of marital problems, and no one likes problems.  Putting extra effort into joining your finances will set your marriage up for years of money success.

Before You Get Married

Have A Joint Wedding Budget:  Planning the budget for your wedding together is a great opportunity to see how your partner thinks about spending and priorities.  It will also give you practice in working your budget together.

Share Your Background:  Everyone's behavior is influenced by their upbringing and prior experiences.  Talking about your background can shed some light into why you behave the way you do, which will help both you and your new spouse to understand.  Talk about how your parents handled money, what you did and did not learn from them, and things you've done right and done wrong so far in your adult life.

Create Goals Together:  Take some time to envision what you want your financial life to look like in the future.  Do you want to be out of debt before you have children?  Do you envision buying a house, or do you like the freedom of renting?  Do you guess you might want to retire someday, or do you expect that you'll want to work forever?  Shared goals makes it easier to stick to your financial plans.

Once You Are Married

My advice for married finances sounds contradictory, but it really isn't.  I suggested that married couples share their finances completely, with five specific exceptions.
  1. I strongly believe that each partner should maintain their own credit, usually by having at least one separate credit card account.
  2. I also strongly believe that the couple should contribute to retirement accounts for each partner, even if both partners do not work.
  3. Lastly, I think it's a decent idea for each half of the couple to have their own smallish savings account from which they could access funds in case of an emergency.
  4. Folks with children from previous marriages may have special needs far beyond the scope of this conversation.
  5. If either partner has a serious financial issue, such as a spending or gambling problem, then none of this applies.
Beyond these five exceptions, mixing money is one of the many ways that you demonstrate that you are fully committed to sharing all aspects of your life with your new spouse.

Each couple will have to find a way to handle day-to-day spending and bill-paying - there's no right answer, and it takes some trial-and-error to come up with the right system for your personalities, skills, and availability.  Many military families find that the non-military spouse eventually becomes responsible for the day-to-day money management because they are consistently home to handle these tasks.

If one partner handles the bulk of the money, figure out a way to share information.  It could be as simple as chatting for ten minutes a week over coffee, or reviewing your You Need A Budget (YNAB) account, or sending a link to your spreadsheet once a month.  Whatever works for you is right.

Money is hard enough - don't let it be an issue in your marriage.  Communication and common goals can help make even the biggest financial challenges a little more manageable.


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