If you’re recently married, congratulations! With all the incredible changes in your life, you’ll soon discover that some of the most important changes involve money.
From sharing bank accounts and setting financial goals to making sure you have enough insurance, there’s a lot to talk about. And because money is such an emotional issue — and a leading cause of divorce — your marriage’s success could well be determined by the financial habits that you and your spouse establish from the start.
To get off to a good start, follow these 10 steps for combining your finances:
- Start saving.
You might have emptied your bank account paying for the wedding. Now is the time to build it back up. Aim to accumulate at least 12 months’ worth of spending in reserves. Also, start funding your retirement plans at work, and invest any extra cash into a diversified portfolio.
- Say goodbye to separate checkbooks.
When you’re married, money isn’t yours or mine, it’s ours. Pool your money into one checking account and one savings account.
- Update beneficiaries.
Change all the beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement plans, annuities and IRAs to the name of your new spouse.
- Address debt.
If your spouse doesn’t know about your debts yet, have that conversation now. Together, you need to decide how the two of you will pay off those loans.
- Figure out where your money goes.
Work together to track your expenditures. It’s easier to achieve financial goals when you know how you’re spending your money.
- Create ground rules for spending.
Chances are, you’ve both been earning and spending money for years without consulting anyone. Those days are over. Discuss your approaches to handling money. Is one person a spender and one a saver? Make rules to handle any differences, perhaps setting a monthly spending limit for each person or promising to save a certain amount every month to achieve a joint goal.
- Prioritize purchases.
Part of being married means jointly deciding how to spend your money. Make a list of upcoming purchases — a new car, living room furniture or a pet — and prioritize them.
- Consolidate your credit cards.
Avoid having more credit cards than you need. This also makes it easier to track household spending.
- Buy life insurance.
If you need both of your incomes to pay your monthly expenses — and most couples do — make sure you both have enough life insurance to protect each other.
- Organize documents.
Make sure you both know where important documents are kept. This includes birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, bank and investment account information, and tax records.