How Getting Married Is Changing How We Manage Our Money

How to manage money when you get married

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My fiancé and I have been dating for nearly 6 years. While I’m not sure we know each other’s favorite song, movie or book, we do know each other’s income, debt, and credit score.

I know it might not sound sexy, but to me, it’s totally romantic.

When it comes to money talk, we’ve been honest with each other from the first date.

After asking me out, my now fiancé, asked me what I wanted to do – dinner? A movie?

I said I didn’t care, as long as it was cheap. The rest is history.

Don’t get me wrong. We don’t always agree on the bottom line. He comes up with new ways to justify buying a BMW on a biweekly basis, and I continue to shoot him down.

But ultimately, our money talk is all out on the table.

We know each other’s habits, we know each other’s values and we know the full details of one another’s financial pictures. Over the past 6 years, we’ve learned to negotiate the differences as we’ve gone from dating to a committed relationship to engagement.

But even with our money talk out in the open, I’m blown away by how many new financial questions we’re just now learning to navigate.

Deciding to return the engagement ring was just the first step! (What, you didn’t read that story? You can find it here).

Obviously, there’s the wedding and figuring out how much we want to spend on that. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are all the money decisions we’re still making as we get ready to make this relationship a marriage.

 

What Are Our Money Goals?

 

One of the first questions I asked my fiancé after he asked me the BIG question, was how much he wanted to spend on our wedding.

To put our answers into context, I mapped out the next five years on a piece of paper and filled in our respective personal and professional goals, attaching a projected price tag to each (one used BMW included).

With that done, we were better able to come to an agreement around our shared priorities for the coming years and what trade-offs we are and aren’t willing to make to have the wedding (and honeymoon) we really want.

Obviously, we can’t predict the future, and we still don’t agree on everything, but by taking the time to hear each other’s perspectives, we were able to come to an agreement and start putting an action plan in place.

 

How Are We Going to Manage Our Money Together? (The Logistics)

 

My fiancé and I have been living together for years, so making changes to the way we manage our bills and shared financial responsibilities feels a little strange.

I can’t say we’ve figured out all the logistics just yet, but these are some of the questions we’re working through now…

  • What types of shared accounts do we want/need?
  • What types of insurance do we need?
  • Where should we put our financial and legal documents in case of an emergency?
  • How will we protect our assets and estate?
  • How will we take care of our aging parents and family members?
  • What are our values around money and are we living those values?
  • Do we like the way we handle our money? Do we need to revisit how we spend or save? Is our budget working for us?
  • Are we on track to achieve our financial goals and retire where and how we want?

 

Some experts argue that you should combine finances with your spouse 100%. Some argue the opposite. But like all personal choices, I believe, there’s no one right way to do it.

We still have to figure out what hybrid of joint and separate accounts makes the most sense for us.

Regardless of how we ultimately divide our accounts and financial tasks, I know we’ll both be fully involved in the process.

What Legal Questions Do We Need to Consider?

 

I know it doesn’t make me much of a romantic to say this, but it doesn’t make it any less true – marriage is a legal contract.

Love. Faith. Family. Whatever else you choose to associate with marriage is your business.

But at the end of the day, it’s still a contract. And like any other legal agreement you enter into, there are implications to consider.

For example, tax implications. Luckily, I have an accountant to help us walk through the process of filing our taxes jointly once we’re married.

We’ll also be updating our beneficiaries on things like our retirement accounts.

I won’t be changing my name, but if you choose to, you’ll need to update essential documents like your driver’s license, social security card, passport, and voter registration.

Finally, we’ll be signing a prenuptial agreement so that should we ever need to separate (knock on wood), our finances get split up the way we want, rather than the way the state of New York (where we’ll be married) dictates.

 

How Do We Protect Ourselves?

 

Again, it’s not sexy, but since we’re in this marriage for the long haul, we know we need to plan for the worst.

Being in our 30s already, we know too well that it’s never a matter of if, but when life happens, (and I don’t mean that in a good way).

As we start our family and continue to grow our shared wealth, we know there’s more and more to lose should anything happen to either of us, so we’re working to build a financial safety net that extends beyond our emergency funds.

To start, we’re reassessing our health insurance coverage. When you get married, you can either choose to keep your current healthcare plan, join your spouse’s plan or have your spouse join your plan.

As you consider your options, be sure to estimate how much your premiums, deductible and potential out of pocket costs might change.

Thankfully, my fiancé’s excellent health benefits make putting both of us his plan a no-brainer.

We’re also building out our financial safety net with the addition of life insurance. As we move into this next phase of our lives – having children, potentially buying a home and eventually upgrading to that BMW – we know our financial demands are going to increase.

We try to be as careful as we are about making sure our lifestyle upgrades remain within our means, the reality is that all of our financial progress could be totally derailed if one of us were to face an untimely death.

We’re using life insurance to make sure we don’t find ourselves in a situation where one of us has to suddenly shoulder the cost of our dual income lifestyle alone.

We like to think about our life insurance policy along with our healthcare coverage and emergency fund as the financial safety net that protects all of our other financial plans, especially as we begin to aggressively pursue our major life milestones – like marriage!

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While you and your loved ones might not totally agree on what you would do with a major financial windfall, (finally buying the dream car or fund the dream wedding?), I’m sure that with an extra $50,000 you can find a compromise that works for both of you.

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One response to “How Getting Married Is Changing How We Manage Our Money

  1. Great article. So good to hear that you’re being practical. Money is one of the biggest reasons people get divorced, so if you can agree on some ground rules I think you’ll be much better off down the road. (I don’t think two people would ever 100% agree on finances!)

    Protecting yourself is smart, and not just against divorce but if one spouse is incapacitated in some way, because those things happen.

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