Keep an Open Dialogue
Before heading to the altar, have a serious money talk: Disclose your personal debt, salary, and the amount of cash you have in savings and retirement accounts. After you’re married, it’s about combining finances. Many couples are so used to financial independence, they choose to live with two checking accounts, separating earnings as his and hers, rather than theirs. I believe you should merge your resources and budget as a team. When you’re agreeing on where your money is going, you’re really agreeing on goals, hopes, dreams, and fears, too.
Schedule Monthly Meetings
Write down your combined income, then list all your expenses for each month, along with a miscellaneous category. Assign every dollar coming in to a section. Online budgeting sites will help you stay on track.
Plan for Emergencies
Begin by building up a starter emergency fund of at least $1,000. Next, put a dent in credit-card debt by attacking the smallest sum first while making minimum payments on all others. Once you’ve gotten a handle on debt, return to your emergency fund, adding to it until you’ve saved up three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Finally, direct 15 percent of your annual income into a retirement fund, simultaneously paying down your mortgage (if you have one) and socking money away for larger expenses, like future children’s education. If you need to save for a year or longer for something that’s paid one time in full, such as a vacation, put that cash into a money-market account so your savings will earn interest but can still be withdrawn without penalty.
Turn to the Pros
See an accountant to determine if filing taxes jointly or separately is more cost-effective, and a financial planner to manage your investments. In the end, if you and your spouse are both intentional, open, and in control of your money, you’ll be on the path to financial security.