Newlyweds usually think of everything else but finances, and this is understandable. If you haven’t been together for ages, however, it is important to go over financial matters to avoid problems in the future.
Merging Your Finances as a Couple
Debt is the major cause of problems and stress when merging finances. Be honest about your financial situation, especially if you have multiple outstanding balances. Go over all accounts, including car loans, mortgages, consumer loans, credit cards, and so on. List all of your debts and look at interest rates, finance charges, terms, and other details. Then compare your household income with your monthly expenses, including basics, debt servicing, and others to assess your financial situation. If any of you has multiple, excessive debts, look at different options to improve your financial situation. There are different solutions, including debt settlement and consolidation and more.
It may be a bit difficult for newlyweds to merge their finances right away but it doesn’t hurt to open a joint account and use it for daily purchases. You may want to develop a monthly budget and then decide on the expenses to meet using the joint account. This can be child care, car maintenance, mortgage payments, gas, electricity, phone, internet, and other utilities, and so on. It is important to discuss whether you will contribute equally or based on your income level and other responsibilities.
Some expenses are fairly constant on a monthly basis – personal money, utilities, insurance coverage, energy, grocery shopping, car payments, and rent. The only exception is unplanned expenses and emergencies. Aim for a balanced budget that allows you to save toward long- and short-term goals. To this, all expenses and purchases, especially big-ticket items, should be planned ahead of time and as best as possible. Discuss your financial goals within a period of 6 months, 1 year, and 10 years, whether it is paying student loans, buying a new car, or saving toward your child’s college education. This way you will be on the same page when you need to make joint decisions and solve problems together.
An Emergency Fund
Emergencies do happen and it pays to have an emergency fund for a rainy day. You may want to open a savings account to meet urgent expenses such as medical bills, utilities, credit card payments, and others. Having an emergency fund can help in between jobs and in other difficult situations. This is especially important if you have small children.
Separate finances work just fine if you are still dating but looking down the road, it is best to discuss and merge your finances at least to some extent. Be transparent and learn to communicate on a regular basis. This can be weekly or monthly, depending on the issues to be discussed. If you find it difficult to work out your finances, then it pays to discuss your situation with a financial advisor to make sure you are on the right track.