Marriage is the commitment to share your life with your other half, and one of the most important areas you need to be able to navigate successfully is money. After all, building a solid financial future is essential for your happiness together.
If talking about money doesn’t come naturally to one or both of you, there’s work to be done in the relationship, and the sooner the better. Regrettably, family finances are one of the key reasons why couples ultimately split up, whether the problem is overspending, refusing to save, failing to budget properly or not planning for the future.
The good news is that addressing your finances as a couple doesn’t have to be daunting. Granted, discussing budgets and savings goals are not especially romantic, but they are important conversations you should prioritise on a regular basis. Here are some of the main topics you should cover.
Agree on how to manage money together
It’s important that you are both on the same page as far as finances are concerned, so you can work together to achieve your financial goals. There may be different financial personalities at play – one of you may be more of a spender, the other more of a saver. Find a compromise that you both feel comfortable with.
Setting up regular savings contributions every month, for instance, can reduce the temptation to spend and make progress towards your savings goals. Put a spending budget in place and agree to share decisions on large purchases to help to hold each other accountable. Tackle debt as a household and perhaps set a time-bound goal around paying it off, so it doesn’t throw other financial goals off track.
Prioritise retirement planning early on
It’s important to have a mutual vision for your retirement as a couple with a shared long-term savings goal. We all know that a state pension won’t be sufficient to sustain you financially in your autumn years. The sooner you can start saving for your retirement, the better your chances to build up a comfortable pension pot.
The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. Sadly, “only 25% of retirees describe themselves as ‘very confident’ they have accrued enough to see them through,” as this report points out. Perhaps one or both of you have a defined contribution pension through your employer, are thinking of setting up a self-invested personal pension (SIPP) or a self-employed pension? Whether you’re in your twenties, thirties or forties, the time to start saving is now.
Openness and honesty about money issues
Honest communications are at the heart of every successful marriage, and this must include money. This means no-holds-barred sharing of your spending habits, credit scores, financial assets and debts brought into the marriage. Recent research found that 1 in 5 people had lied to their partner about their earnings and 1 in 4 lied about debt. So-called financial infidelity can have serious consequences and call into question the trust you have between you.
Maybe one of you has a sensible monthly budget in place while the other lives from paycheck to paycheck? Perhaps you are paying off a student loan or have other financial obligations. How much money do you have saved, and have you had any issues with finance in the past? Coming clean with your spouse about your financial position and habits – good or bad – is the foundation upon which you can build a solid future together.
Respecting what’s yours, what’s mine and what’s ours
Coming together as a married couple financially takes a lot of give and take, and no two couples are the same. Many decide to have a joint account for managing day-to-day household finances, while others prefer to keep things separate. Also consider looking at your finances as a combination of yours, mine and ours. There are no right or wrong answers here; it’s a case of finding what works for you.
If you choose not to have a joint account, make sure you both know who is responsible for paying what. Whichever financial management system you have chosen for your family, you still need to take decisions at a household level and commit to shared financial goals.
Ensure your family is financially protected
You may be managing your family’s finances responsibly but is there any contingency planning in case something goes wrong? Make sure you include a ‘rainy day’ emergency fund to cover up to 6 months of living expenses in case of sudden job loss or unexpected outgoings, so you don’t need to dip into your retirement savings or load up the credit card. Also consider life insurance, private health insurance, critical illness or disability cover, just in case life doesn’t go according to plan, and make sure you have a legally valid and up-to-date Will.
Prenuptial agreements are important if one spouse has a business or significant assets they wish to protect or is getting remarried with previous children. While you can’t get a ‘prenup’ after marriage, it is possible to arrange for a ‘postnup’ to specify how financial assets were to be divided in case of divorce, which is essentially the same idea.
Keep the conversation going
Every household and family has their own way of dividing responsibilities between them, and that includes financial management. Often, it is the case that one spouse looks after the day-to-day budgeting while the other handle longer-term savings and investments. Make sure complacency doesn’t set in – you both need to have a clear understanding of the overall picture. It can be useful to prepare a summary of all financial accounts, investments and insurance policies, with contact details and log-ins to access financial institutions when needed. Put the document in a safe place that you both know.
Have a regular money check-in to discuss and share financial information with each other. Why not make this a weekly or monthly finance ‘date night’ to see how the family finances are doing? You could also have a, say, quarterly ‘finance summit’ to see how you are tracking towards your financial goals and discuss things like holiday planning, home improvements or big-ticket expenses like buying a new car.
Working towards your financial goals with your married partner means having shared objectives and being honest and transparent with each other. It takes commitment, communication and compromise to achieve a successful financial union.
About The Author
This page has been written by Justin Aldridge. Justin is passionate about helping couples to make their anniversary as special as possible. Justin enjoys being creative and coming up with different and inspiring ideas for couples to celebrate their anniversary in style each year.
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