Marriage brings about a lot of changes, and the biggest change will be to your finances. Once one of the 2.1 million annual weddings in the US is over and you’re living with your spouse, you have to consider how your finances are going to be handled.
Blending your finances can be difficult, especially if you happen to have outstanding debt and investments you held as an individual. Things are not as simple as applying for a joint bank account. You need to think about how you’re going to join your finances and who’s going to take responsibility.
Appoint a treasurer
First of all, you need to appoint a treasurer. Who is the person who’s going to pay the bills and control spending? This isn’t necessarily the person who earns the most money. It should be the one who spends it. For example, if your wife pays the bills, it’s wise to appoint her as the treasurer.
This doesn’t mean that you have no say in your finances. On the contrary, a couple should make decisions together. But for regular expenses someone needs to manage the bank account.
Assign a spending limit
Going into credit card debt is one of the biggest problems for couples. And it nearly always happens because of miscommunication. If you want to stay debt free, you should assign a spending limit. Any expenditure that goes above this spending limit should require authorization from both parties.
This spending limit can be as high or as low as you please. But make sure you’re both happy with that spending limit. You don’t want it to be too high or you could be like many Americans with tons of credit card debt.
Some people don’t like to talk about money, even if they’re firmly in the black. You need to get past this nervousness and review your finances like a mature adult. Every month or so you should sit down with your spouse to discuss your current financial situation, including your bills, income, and future plans.
For example, if you’re looking to get rid of debt, you should discuss whether you’re on-target to getting debt free. You may also discuss how to cut spending and increase income. It might be difficult to discuss money, but it’s a necessary discussion to have on a regular basis.
Having trouble? Get some outside help
Not everyone has experience with handling money. Both of you should make a conscious effort to learn about money and understand it. There are plenty of community classes that can teach you about basic financial concepts.
If anxiety is a problem, you might consider seeing a psychologist. They can help trigger anxiety points and help you to overcome them. Allowing yourself to ignore the problem will only make things difficult going forward.
Dealing with bigger purchases as a couple
Sometimes you might have to make some big financial decisions, such as going into mortgage debt or buying a new car. These are financial decisions you need to make as a couple. Hold a big-picture meeting where you will review your finances and figure out what you can spend and whether you really need to spend that money.
This is where a treasurer will come in handy because they will have the financial knowledge to decide whether a purchase is a smart move.
How do you deal with taxes?
There’s no hard and fast rule for whether you should file separately or as a couple. Don’t assume anything. Hire a tax professional to advise you on this. There are so many factors that come into play and making the wrong decision could cost you hundreds of dollars.
Just because you’re a married couple doesn’t mean you have to file jointly.
Communication is key
Dealing with debt and deciding to regularly review your finances requires communication. Disputes happen when only one party takes charge. Make a pledge to never take out debt or make large purchases without consulting your spouse first. This is not about control, it’s about smart financial management.
Communicating will ensure that nothing ever takes you by surprise.
Conclusion – final step
The final step to blending your money is to make a will. It should state that if one party should perish, the assets in their name go to the other person. So many Americans don’t have a will and it can lead to serious problems if the worst should happen.
How will you combine your finances today?