When you’re basking in that about-to-be (or recently) married glow, it can be hard to think of anything else. You and your life partner have finally found each other and are ready to commit to a life together in front of family and friends.
But with the celebration in the rear view, it might be time to start thinking of the practical side of married life. When it comes to love and money, things can get complicated. If you’re married or planning to get hitched soon, this can be a great time to spend some time thinking about how to handle finances in a marriage.
Though figuring out how to set financial boundaries and expectations can be an important part of any relationship, learning how to manage finances and develop shared financial expectations can be especially crucial in a marriage.
Building a healthy financial relationship in your marriage can come with its share of challenges. In fact, money is one of the most common things that couples fight about. Organizing your own financial life can be tricky enough already, so when thinking about developing strategies for combining your money goals and habits with your partner’s, things can get messy if you don’t stay on top of them.
Every couple has different circumstances—from the amount of income they are bringing in, to the money habits they picked up from their families and friends. Since there is so much variety, this article will take a look at a few different strategies that married couples may want to try out in order to approach finances in their relationship in a healthier and more effective way.
From figuring out the best way to enmesh finances to developing a routine that lets you and your spouse check in about all things financial, here we take a close look at ways to have better, more candid, and more productive conversations about money in your marriage so that you can work toward building a more secure financial future—together.
Communication Is Key
Communication is always important in a relationship, but when it comes to discussing how to manage money with your spouse, it becomes especially crucial.
Zola and SoFi recently surveyed over 1,000 newlyweds* to gain some insight into their attitudes about money.
Most of the couples surveyed said that they knew everything about their partner’s finances before getting married.
In addition to this, 84% of couples said they felt extremely comfortable talking about everything financial, whether the conversation was a good or bad one.
Of those surveyed, 86% had debt , which can be linked to things like increased anxiety and other challenges that can make settling into a marriage more difficult. Talking about money isn’t easy, especially when it comes to debt.
So the fact that the majority of respondents said they made a point of regularly discussing money with their partner is great news. After all, communication often tends to be the first step to resolving any of these negative feelings—and avoiding arguments about money.
For many couples, it may be helpful to establish regular check ins or start going on “money dates.” This may mean having a set date on the calendar each month or quarter where you meet to go over your financial goals and setbacks at your favorite café. Or maybe it’s having a quick check in every week to make sure you are staying on top of your goals.
However you choose to approach your communication, know that finding ways to check in about money regularly can be one of the best investments you make in your marriage.
Of course, every pair is different, and so it’s important to find what works for you and make sure that whichever strategy you choose allows you to remain as comfortable and open as possible.
Identifying Your Priorities
Every married couple has different goals. Maybe, for you and your partner, it’s buying a house, or having kids, or going on a trip around the world together. Because every partnership is unique, you may want to take some time to figure out what you both want to work towards so that you can ensure you’re able to pace effortlessly towards your goals.
Whatever your ambitions may be, it can be very helpful to prioritize them early on. Though it’s important to enjoy the present moment, it can be important to find ways to live the life you want to live now, while also setting your future selves up for success and stability.
When asked to rank their savings priorities, the couples surveyed by SoFi and Zola put travel at the top of the list followed by retirement, emergency savings, paying off debt, having children, and, lastly, purchasing a house or a condo. Maybe these goals are similar to your own, or maybe yours differ drastically.
No matter what they may be, consider sitting down with your partner to identify some of your long term goals. If you’re in debt, this might mean crafting a debt payoff strategy to aggressively pay them off.
Or if you’re interested in saving for a down payment, you may want to identify how much you need to put down and set a savings goal every month until you can reach your goal.
Your budget and lifestyle may ultimately depend on what your financial objectives are and how soon you want to achieve them, so it’s important to take some time to identify your goals and priorities so you can start reaching them.
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Building a Budget Together
Once you’ve identified your financial goals for the future, it may be time to develop a framework that helps you stay on track. Every marriage is full of its own share of challenging financial decisions, but once you’ve identified your shared priorities and formed a habit of communicating regularly, you may be in a better position to weather them as they come.
For some couples, enmeshing finances is a no brainer. According to our survey, “72% of newly married couples have at least one joint bank account.” For others, it may be a little trickier. If combining accounts with your partner feels overwhelming, you aren’t alone. It was the number one reason survey participants cited for not merging their finances. But the process can sometimes be done in phases, which can make it more manageable.
In order to better navigate the uncertainty of life, you may want to consider setting up a budget with your partner that you can both work with—and stick to.
Not all budgets are created equal, so it may be necessary to sit down and take a look at your financial big picture—from your goals for the future to your income, expenses, and debt load—in order to figure out what kind of budget works best for you as a couple.
Sticking with a budget is a challenge for some, but a general rule of thumb is to start by putting 20% of your income towards your savings, 50% towards necessary costs like groceries, rent, and utilities, and the remaining 30% towards fun discretionary costs like entertainment, travel, and eating out at restaurants.
In addition to figuring out a budget that works for both of you, you may want to set other budgeting goals, like creating an emergency fund that could cover you both in case of an illness or a job loss, as well as saving for retirement. And, if you’re interested in learning how to invest as a couple, you may want to fit this into your budget, as well.
Finding What Works for Both of You
Building a financially stable life with your spouse isn’t something you can do in one meeting—it’s an ongoing discussion and learning experience that both partners have to stay dedicated and accountable to.
With proper communication, clarity around shared financial goals, and a budgeting strategy that works for both of you, it can be a lot easier to handle finances in your marriage.
There may not be a one-size-fits-all strategy for managing money with your spouse, but it’s important to identify and implement what will work best for you—both in the present and for the long haul.
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