When you marry, you agree to share a financial future, too. Although successfully managing finances in marriage is essential to your happiness together, talking about it may not come naturally. Here are six tips on how keeping an open dialogue could help you save, invest and plan together, and get you closer to your financial happily-ever-after:
Keep sharing your financial secrets: It is important to share all financial statements with your partner. Begin by tallying up what each of you owns and owes – your assets should include things like your savings and retirement accounts, and your liabilities may include student debt, car loans, credit card balances and even mortgages. It’s better to not be surprised by something that could have an impact on your finances as a couple.
Embrace a budget: Figure out how you both have been managing costs separately and develop a budget that can work for both of you. When it comes to managing your daily finances, talk about what makes you both comfortable. Some couples find joint bank accounts are the easiest to manage. But maybe you as a couple will decide to keep individual accounts and dually contribute to a joint account to save for larger purchases.
Explore your compatibility as investors: Your attitudes about money and investing may differ. Maybe you’re willing to take on some risk for the potential of a higher return, but your spouse prefers to stick with a slow and steady approach. That’s okay — your different financial styles may even complement one another. You just need to be up front about it and think about how the investing decisions you make today could affect your financial security later.
Talk with a professional about tax differences for couples: Find out the ways in which filing taxes jointly could affect your finances. Make time to talk with a tax professional about different filing options and how they may affect your tax picture. It might also be a good idea to review your investment choices and find out if there are any tax-efficient steps you might consider.
Update your will and other legal documents: This is always a smart thing to do and it isn’t complicated. If your intent is to have your spouse as your beneficiary, you’ll want to communicate your estate wishes and be sure they’re reflected in your will and other key legal or financial documents, including insurance policies and retirement accounts.
Review and recommit, yearly: Nothing’s set in stone. All the plans you make can be quickly upended by new jobs, new expenses and new babies. From time to time, it makes sense to take a fresh look at your financial situation and goals. You’ll probably want to make a few changes along the way, so think about making this an annual exercise.
Starting and maintaining these ongoing conversations can be difficult and, at times, daunting. If you’re having trouble, or don’t know where to start, involve professionals in the conversation. A financial professional can help facilitate a conversation about your finances and help you outline your goals and a strategy to pursue them together.
Corine Haten is vice president, Merrill Edge, Financial Solutions Advisor.