The “I dos” have been said, the rings are on your fingers and the journey as spouses is beginning. But you can’t live on love alone. Once the wedding celebration begins, the sobering tasks of planning your financial future as a couple begins. Money is one of the biggest stressors of marriage but you can ease that stress with good planning.
Hold a budget meeting
Soon after the wedding, sit down with your spouse and talk about your future and financial goals. First, look honestly at each spouse’s financial situation. Is one more in debt than the other? Does one have significantly more income than the other spouse? How will you determine who pays what bills or do you want a joint bank account?
Also, honestly ask these questions:
- Is one of you a spender and one of you a saver? How will you deal with the differences?
- How soon do you want children?
- Do you want to purchase a home soon?
- Do you want to purchase a new vehicle soon?
Communicating about these issues at the beginning of your marriage will help you plan better and prevent future misunderstandings later. No matter how you decide to set up your financial accounts, you are still a team. Have a family budget meeting every month to balance the previous month and look at next month’s future.
This is one of the first decisions you will need to make. Some couples have been together a long time and have joint financial accounts when they marry. Some couples prefer to keep their money separate. Another option is to have a joint checking account for expenses like rent/mortgage, utilities and credit card bills. Each spouse can maintain his/her own account for other expenses. A TD Bank survey showed that 42 percent of couples who have joint bank accounts also have separate ones.
The reasons for separate accounts are not always about a lack of trust for their spouse. Some have financial troubles and they want to protect their partners. Others just prefer to keep the accounts separate for budgeting reasons.
Joint bank accounts do have advantages. Couples can plan better for future expenses such as children or home purchase by having one account, especially if it is a savings account. Agreements should be made as to when money can be withdrawn. Designate one partner to manage the account who will report the activity at the monthly budget meeting.
You don’t want to make the IRS mad! If you are used to getting a big tax refund as a single person, that may change when you are married. Even if you get married on December 31, you will be considered a married couple for that tax year.
When filing, you can continue to file as married but separate. The downside to this is your standard deduction is almost cut in half. You also will not be eligible for several tax breaks that include the earned income tax credit. Tax experts say the only reason spouses should file separately is if one has numerous medical expenses that do not exceed 10 percent of your joint gross income. A spouse filing separately may be eligible for that tax break.
As with any issue in a marriage, communication is key. Making good financial decisions now will reduce future stress.