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Money Talk for Newlyweds 14 topics to explore with your new spouse

newlywed money tips

Money Talk for Newlyweds 14 topics to explore with your new spouse

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I thought you were paying the cable bill?
I thought you were paying it!

You actually spent $70 on a bedazzled dog collar?
It’s my money. I can spend it how I like.
It’s your money, but I pay all the bills. So it’s not really your money.

Yay! It feels so good to have made the final payment on the credit card! We’re debt free!
I thought we agreed to pay that down slowly and create an emergency account.
But debt repayment is more important.
Not to me.
I thought we agreed on this.
Oh my god. You’re just like your mother.

Money can bring you together or tear you apart. When it comes to marriage, financial fights are often cited as the No. 1 reason for divorce. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re newly hitched, now is a great time to launch a life together with a healthy financial future in mind. Here are 14 ways to make that future a reality.

Get a financial snapshot

Collect each of your recent tax returns, pay stubs and financial accounts: savings, checking, retirement and credit cards. Lay it all out and understand what you’re dealing with.

Pull each of your credit scores

Credit.com is a great, free place to start. If your scores are lower than you’d hoped or your credit history is marred—erroneously or not—come up with a plan together to improve the scores.

Count your accounts: one, two or three?

Decide what kind of couple you are: Will you combine all of your accounts into one? Will you each maintain your own personal finances? Or a combination of the two? Many financial experts advocate for the three-account system. Each partner maintains a checking and savings account in his or her own name, completely independent of the other spouse. Then they both contribute to a third account. This can be done several ways: Everyone splits common bills equally, expenses are prorated based on each party’s income or another creative way that works for the couple. Again, the main thing is to talk about it, come up with a plan and stick with it.

Establish common goals

Do you want to buy a home? Relocate? Start a business? Take a vacation? Start some conversations about your objectives and how you will reach them.

Create a budget

Understanding how your money is spent is a great first step toward building a sound financial life together. The easiest way to do that? Set a budget. Mint.com is a great app that gives you a snapshot of all of your accounts, helps you track spending and set budgets, and alerts you when you have not met your targets.

Give everyone money chores

Make a list of all the money-related tasks in your household, and divvy them up. Decide who will pay certain bills, who will deal with the accountant at tax time, who will interact with the health insurance company. (“You can do that. No, really, you do it. I insist. No, no. You can call them. Really! You’re so good at it.”)couple thinking about a house

Set a monthly money date

Some couples enjoy this rendezvous more frequently, but at least once per moon, sit down with your spouse, go over your monthly expenses, check on your goals and listen to each other’s thoughts and concerns about your finances.

Think about a house

If you don’t own a home but want to, sit down with a mortgage broker and understand what you need to do. He or she will help you understand how the role of your credit scores, a down payment and income will play into your ability to buy a home. He will also likely have information on any local or national homebuyers’ programs for first-time homebuyers and low- or middle-income buyers as well as other qualifications. A broker at your local bank is a great place to start.

Have an emergency fund

Whether it’s three or six months’ worth of daily living expenses is up to you, but start to sock away some cash in an easily accessible account, for example, not in your 401(k), since early withdrawals come with fees and taxes, in case of unemployment, major illness or another unforeseen event. Those with less-stable income, like freelance and contract workers, are urged to save more.

Have the baby talk

If you haven’t hashed this out yet, now is the time. planning on starting a familyDecide whether kids are in the plan, and if so, discuss a time frame. Then discuss the practicalities. Do you hope one parent will stay home full or part time? For how long? Which parent will that be? What are the financial realities of living on one income? What are the financial realities of paying for childcare? Do you have a reliable relative who may be willing to help care for the child? If that is in the plan, then make an appointment to discuss the topic with that person. (See a trend here? Talk about stuff. All of it!)

Share your career goals

Most families include two wage earners, and the number of female breadwinners is on the rise. Share with each other your career goals and what each requires in terms of time investments, graduate school or even launching a business. How would each of you feel if the other suddenly earned more? What if one partner wants to quit his job and start a company or switch careers completely? How much money are you willing to spend collectively for education or upstart costs?

Buy insurance

There is a lot of controversy about what insurance is critical. However, it’s still important to sit down with your partner and tackle these types of coverage:

  • Health. Do you buy independently, together on the exchange or both through one of your employers?
  • Life. Now, or wait until the baby comes?
  • Car. Call your carrier to see if you qualify for a discount now that you’re hitched.
  • Homeowners’ or renters’ insurance. Now that you have all of that expensive registry china and silver, you may want to up your policy.

Check in about debt

Debt is a big deal, and an emotional one. Once you pull everyone’s credit scores and current debt loads, understand each other’s attitudes about debt. Some people feel comfortable with well-managed, low-interest loans used for a specific goal—such as education, a home, a car or home improvement. Other people abhor debt at all costs, going as far as saving up to buy a home outright. Understand your partner’s feelings on this important topic, and share your own. You may not have ever explored your most intimate debt sentiments, but now is the time!

Set long-term financial goals

If you’re not particularly financially savvy or if money topics are emotional for one of you—or contentious in your relationship—this step is often best done with a financial expert. Whether a certified financial planner, an accountant or another professional, a third party skilled in both investments and human psychology can be a great asset. Even if you don’t feel like you have a lot of extra money to set aside right now, taking this step, understanding your options and creating even a small investment account can be an empowering way to secure your future.

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