Money

How to Combine Finances After Marriage

young couple with toddler
There are many decisions to make when you get married, but few have the long-term significance of knowing how to combine finances after marriage. The decisions you make around money early on in your marriage will impact you for the rest of your life — from now through retirement and beyond.

So, how should money be handled in a marriage? Here are a few considerations to help you figure out how to best manage your finances in marriage.

Transparency is key

Be open. If you haven't already shared, make sure your fiance knows your credit rating, debt, and financial obligations. This could lead to some significant discussions if, for example, you're paying child support from a previous relationship or have significant credit card debt. It also means talking to your spouse about how you feel about money: were you raised to save every penny, or are your ideas of stashing away cash a little looser?

Schedule regular money discussions

To foster financial transparency, one key for combining finances after marriage is regularly speaking to each other about money. This can be hard for some people who were raised to believe that money matters are private. 

But in a marriage, the two of you work together as one team, and one of the best financial tips for marriage is to set aside regular, scheduled time — once a month is good — to discuss your money and how you wish to spend it. Don't wait until you can't sleep at night because you're thinking about your stock portfolio. Schedule it like you would a date night. Sit down and perhaps pour some wine, or talk about it over coffee if you're a morning person. 

The important thing is to use the time to review the past month's expenditures and discuss your goals.

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Is opening a joint bank account after marriage a good idea?

Combining your finances is a personal decision you should include in your discussions before marriage. Some couples place all their income into joint accounts; others prefer to keep some money separate, so each partner has autonomy over their own spending. That's something you and your partner will need to decide, sooner rather than later. 

Consider opening at least one joint account, where you each place an agreed-upon amount of money to spend on common goals. Maybe it becomes your vacation fund or seed money for a new house.

Build a budget

So, you've answered the question: Should married couples have joint bank accounts? Now, it's time to build a budget. Your budget shows what money is coming in each month and where you're spending or saving it. A budget isn't written in stone; it can change with your circumstances. 

Once you have a monthly budget, you can quickly see if you've gotten off track in any area and can adjust the budget or tweak your spending habits. With a budget in hand, you won't be surprised six months down the road that you've neglected to allocate a certain amount in savings, for example.

Be willing to compromise

Managing finances as a married couple can be summed up in one word: compromise. It's highly unlikely that you'll both have all the same ideas about money: how to earn it, when to save it, what to spend it on. In fact, money is one of the top things that couples fight over, whether newly married or not. 

To prevent conflict, it helps to be flexible. Be willing to give in on some things to achieve your goals. If one of you thinks that saving $500 a month is unrealistic, for example, can you agree instead on saving $250 or $300? It pays if you're both able to look at your partner's viewpoint and see the merits in their side of the discussion — and then act accordingly.

Think long-term

Of course, you need to pay your bills month to month, and that's probably where a good chunk of your income goes. Hopefully, you're putting some money into savings, too. But when you're looking into how to combine finances after marriage, don't forget that one day, you'll be ready for retirement. 

If your employer offers a 401K, you should both contribute as much as you can while you're young, so it has years to grow before you need it. Open IRAs if you can, or choose another savings vehicle that will be earmarked for life after you stop working. Even considering long-term care insurance can be prudent and may someday save you a great deal of money.

Consider life insurance

While looking at long-term finances in marriage, you'll also want to discuss life insurance. Now that you have a partner, it's a good time to reevaluate your life insurance needs. You and your partner depend on each other for support, and sometimes that's financial. 

How can you protect them if you're not in the picture? A life insurance policy is one good answer. If you have children, you may want to consider a term insurance policy when they're young. If you purchase a house and have a large mortgage, the same is true. 

Find out if life insurance works in your financial plan with a free, no-commitment quote from Ethos Life.

The information and content provided herein is for informational purposes only, and it is not to be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.

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