Before you decide to combine your personal finances, you and your spouse should form a solid game plan to address each of these five major financial factors.
There are a few simple options for addressing your recurring monthly expenses. If you prefer to maintain separate checking accounts, you and your spouse can simply set up a joint account expressly for bill paying, to which you both contribute a set dollar amount, or a set percentage of your respective incomes. If one of you makes markedly more each year than the other, you could also opt to let him or her take care of bill paying solo and let the spouse with the smaller income take care of his/her personal debts or more flexible monthly expenses such as groceries and entertainment.
Assets and debts
Before you wed, you'll need to take a hard look at what assets and debts you're both bringing to the table. Will you address debts together or separately? Do you have assets that you could leverage to absolve some of your debts? If you have a significant amount of student loan debt or credit card debt, we have additional tips for managing your mammoth student loan debt and building a healthy credit score in the Protective Learning Center.
Even if you feel you're both too young to start worrying about retirement planning, it's important to start setting money aside for long-term plans as soon as possible. By now, you're well aware of your aspirations as a couple. Maybe you're planning to have a large family, or you'd just like to be able to afford a small condo in the city. If you want those financial dreams to come to fruition, you'll need to determine how much money you can squeeze out of your current finances to set aside for the future. A common financial rule of thumb is to set aside enough savings to cover 3-6 months of expenses, should one or both of you suddenly find yourselves unemployed. If saving is a problem for the both of you, set modest goals and then build on them. Resist the urge to empty out your savings for anything that doesn't provide lasting, long-term benefits for you as a couple.
After you've paid your bills, addressed your debts, and put a little money in your savings account, what's left is your monthly entertainment budget. It's important to know what that figure is, so you can avoid blowing your household budget altogether with impulsive, frivolous spending. Whether you've chosen to completely merge your personal finances or to maintain some financial autonomy, it's important to set “fun money” limits that fit within your budget. This practice can help prevent you from putting all that fun on a credit card and getting further in debt.
Budgeting & money management
Money can be a huge source of conflict for couples and careful budgeting is key to avoiding long-term financial strife in a marriage. For this reason, it's important to be aware of your separate money management styles and find what works best for your relationship. And remember, it isn't fair to put all the duties of household budgeting and money management on one single pair of shoulders. Instead, tackle monetary issues as a team.