The Top Tips for Combining Finances as Newlyweds
Every day, thousands of Americans are tying the knot. In fact, the United States marries almost 2.3 million couples each year.
Getting married is a major milestone and an exciting time filled with new experiences. It’s also a big lifestyle adjustment for the newlyweds. One of the biggest adjustments newlyweds have to go through is linking finances. For example, they are now likely to file state and federal jointly or combine finances by opening joint checking and savings accounts that are managed and accessed by both partners.
Since money is the number one reason that couples argue, it is critical to build a financial strategy that works for both. Read on to learn how newly married couples can successfully combine their finances into one.
Plan for the Unexpected
The most profound reality for newlyweds is the realization that you are responsible for someone besides yourself. This involves discussing and planning for tragic life events.
What happens to your family if you are laid off? Even worse, how would your family endure in the event of an untimely death or injury?
For starters, you can handle these situations by giving your spouse complete access to your financial assets. There will certainly be moments when your spouse or children need access to cash.
Financially savvy couples also elect to take out life insurance to mitigate the risk of tragedy. This way, your family can replace your income and continue paying the bills. If you already have life insurance in place, you may need to reconsider coverage to adequately support your spouse and future plans to expand your family.
Honesty is the Best Policy
The next step to combining finances involves full transparency. Each partner needs to lay out all of their assets and liabilities.
This involves detailing each source of income including wages, bonuses, and investment earnings. It also includes quantifying every monthly bill from student loans to car payments.
It may be uncomfortable, but the newlyweds also need to itemize their debt. Each partner needs to understand what debt they are inheriting when combining finances. With a complete understand of assets and liabilities, you are ready to chart a financial path together.
Consider Opening Joint Bank Accounts
Many married couples decide to open joint checking and savings accounts. The checking account is often used to pay for daily and monthly expenses. It includes a debit card that both partners can use for online and in-person shopping.
Savings accounts are largely used to put away money for an emergency or large purchase. This account type has a higher interest rate than a checking account earning you more money.
The greatest advantage of a joint account is dual access to funds. This access lends transparency to your family’s finances, removing any doubts about money coming in and going out.
Take Advantage of Healthcare and Retirement Benefits
Health and retirement benefits are another opportunity to turn two accounts into one.
After identifying the best health or dental plan, either spouse can switch over to that plan. Since marriage is considered a qualifying life event, you can be added to a medical or dental plan outside of the open season.
This is also true for retirement benefits. Some employers offer generous pension or 401(k) retirement savings plans. As a financial team, newlyweds can take advantage of the retirement plan with the greatest employer contribution.
Create a Budget
Now that your joint account is opened and your benefits are locked down, it’s time to craft a budget together. This is perhaps the most important step for your new financial partnership.
You are already aware of each other’s assets and liabilities, so now it’s time to create a budget for discretionary spending. This is what you spend on weekly, like coffee runs or happy hour after work.
Discretionary spending covers variable expenses such as entertainment, groceries, and gas. It also includes clothes and other consumer purchases.
Once you have a firm grip on income and fixed expenses, like rent and utilities, determine how much is left over for discretionary spending. It requires dedication and commitment to live on a budget for variable expenses.
A joint account allows for transparency and communication on following through with a discretionary budget. Apps are also available to help categorize and track spending. This way you can work together as a couple to identify and eliminate areas of overspending.
Communication is Key
Now as a new financial team, you have a joint account and are adhering to a monthly budget. The final step in having a financially harmonious relationship is routine communication about your money.
Each month, try to sit down with your partner and review your account statements. Here, you will be able to determine if monthly financial goals are being achieved.
Some couples find out they are not saving enough or adding on too much credit card debt. With this knowledge in hand, you can work together to reduce monthly costs and keep your joint account in the black.
A Recap of Combining Finances for Newlyweds
Marriage presents many different challenges. However, financial management does not have to be one of them.
Taking steps like reviewing your joint account statement each month, staying on budget and communicating about money reduces stress and help you achieve your financial goals.