It’s definitely true that opposites attract, and financial opposites can cause some serious problems in a marriage. But it’s possible to get ahead of those problems, and the financial challenges that come with them, if you simply find some common ground with some serious talks—before the wedding day arrives. You might be more focused on finding a reception site and picking the perfect flowers, but be sure you’re also having these discussions:
- Get in touch with your financial personality. You may have tons in common, but that doesn’t mean you operate the same way where money’s concerned. It’s very important you talk about how you both spend, save and invest, so that you can make decisions you’re both comfortable with.
- Plan ahead, farther than you think you need to. Even if you’re a young couple, now’s the time to discuss your future goals. Planning for your financial future requires taking steps now, such as deciding how much you’ll set aside from each paycheck. So don’t put off talking about retirement goals, even though it may seem too far away to consider.
- Talk about the tough subjects. Blending a family (successfully) requires a lot of consideration and discussion, and the financial side is no different. Before the wedding, you need to have a conversation about estate planning. You don’t want to make the “what’s mine is yours” assumption and you don’t want to get five years in, then have to determine which kids get what. Now is the time to settle it all: insurance, wills and trusts.
- Plan for your spouse’s security. One of the most beautiful gifts you can give your new spouse is the knowledge that he/she will always be taken care of. Couples need to establish peace of mind that if something happens to one of you, the other spouse won’t suddenly be forced to part with major assets, such as college funds or your house. Different kinds of insurance, such as life or disability insurance, are more appropriate depending on your age and situation, so consult an insurance expert about your security planning options.
- Start young. Find a way to follow a few general financial rules, and you’re going to be much more relaxed about your monetary future, which always spells a happier marriage. First, if your company offers a match on your retirement plan, get it. Next, fund a ROTH IRA for tax free growth forever. Tax rates are likely to be higher when you retire, so putting money in now is a good bet to have more money for retirement. But also, know that it’s never too late to get started. There’s nothing more stressful than starting from scratch at 40 or 50, feeling like you missed the boat, and doing nothing as a result. You’re responsible for your future, and now both of you are responsible for each other, too.
- Make a will and keep it up to date. Outdated wills are common, and they can cause huge heartache and headaches. Before you tie the knot, see an attorney and do a basic will. If you are going to have a blended family, now is the time to have a conversation with a financial advisor and estate planning attorney to discuss possible estate planning issues. You’ll reap some tax benefits from this planning and also ensure that your wishes are carried out.
- Decide who does what. There’s simply no right way to decide who will be in charge of the finances, and that’s why you have to talk about it. Whatever you decide, it has to be an arrangement that works for both of you, so be ready to listen and compromise. If one person often handles all of the finances, that person should consider working with an advisor they trust who will communicate their wishes and help their spouse through the financial end if something happens to them.
- Talk it through with an expert. There truly are a lot of financial issues for new couples to consider, and they differ depending on your age and each spouse’s family situation. So one of the best things you can do is find a financial advisor to walk you through these discussions. Financial advisors often specialize in different areas of advisement, so make a few phone calls to find an advisor who will do a consultation that addresses your stage in life and walk you through the next steps.
You’d think that establishing a solid financial base as a couple has more to do with the number on your bank statement than anything else, but really, like most things in marriage, it’s about good communication. Talk now—and keep talking—and your financial situation will be happily ever after.
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