A Financial Checklist for Newlyweds
Getting ready to tie the knot? The opportunity to take on life as a team is exciting, but having your lives so closely intertwined also means big changes for your lifestyle. Especially when it comes to managing your finances.
Unfortunately, money can be a tricky topic for couples. In fact, it’s the number one thing married couples fight about.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. As you begin this next step in your relationship, one of the best moves you can make for your marriage is to sit down and talk about money. Then start taking the steps in this financial checklist for couples. Your relationship – and finances – will be all the better for it.
1. Credit & Debts
It’s best to talk about each other’s financial history early on, so you’re not blindsided by undisclosed money issues after saying I Do. At this point in the relationship, you shouldn’t be coy about discussing any area of your finances with each other.
Maybe one or both of you have outstanding student loans or credit card debt. Find out how much you each owe and the specifics of each debt. You should also be upfront about your credit scores and any credit issues, such as having a loan in default or a past bankruptcy. If one or both of you is working to pay down debt, make sure there’s a plan in place to tackle this debt.
What’s your combined net worth? Tell each other about your savings and investments and the accounts you have. This will be important when you’re discussing your financial goals.
Have you each been managing your money differently? Maybe one of you is frugal and prioritizes saving, while the other likes to splurge now and then. Try to find a healthy balance between differing financial lifestyles. A compromise could mean dining out less, but also signing up for that extra streaming service.
Create a shared budget and hold each other accountable, from how much you spend on certain expenses to how much you save each month. This downloadable worksheet or an online budgeting app can help.
4. Money Management
You’ll need a system for how to handle day-to-day spending. While consolidating your banking isn’t mandatory, you’ll enjoy a lot more simplicity and transparency by opening a joint checking account and shared savings, as well as credit cards on the same account.
It’s also okay to have you own accounts, but you need to be open with your spouse about what accounts you have and how much is in them, which will help avoid financial confusion or, much worse, secrets. Make sure your partner has access to all your account information, such as account numbers and online logins.
How will you handle bills? Many couples divvy them up, while others have one partner in charge of the checkbook. Either way, it’s important to clearly designate responsibilities.
Once you’re married, you’ll need to update some paperwork and account information. You should both file new Form W-4s at work to update your tax filing status, withholding amount, and address (if necessary).
If you will keep any savings or checking accounts in your own name, ask your financial institution to add your spouse as a designated beneficiary, which will make it easier for them to receive these assets if you die. You may also need to update the beneficiary information for retirement accounts like your IRA or 401(k).
6. Plans & What-Ifs
A big life change like getting married is a good time to think about your estate plan and create a will. Outlining your wishes regarding your assets and end-of-life decisions helps minimize the challenges that a grieving partner would have to face. You can update these documents whenever you need to.
Does one of you have great health insurance through work? Having both of you on this plan could save money and help simplify healthcare needs. You might also save on car insurance by using the same provider. If you haven’t signed up for life insurance, now may be a good time, especially if you have kids or one person in the relationship earns significantly more than the other.
As a couple, what are your goals? Whether you want to buy your first home, travel the world, or start a family, money is probably a big factor. Getting your finances in shape to support these goals should be a team effort. You should also talk about what’s a priority and what should wait, since timing will influence your financial decisions.
IT’S AN ONGOING PROCESS
We know, this is a lot to take on at once, and certainly not right before your wedding (or the first day back from your honeymoon). Your shared finances are something to work on over time. It may not be your favorite breakfast table conversation, but you should make it a point to discuss your finances periodically throughout your marriage. After all, you’re on this financial journey together.