The first year of marriage is a great time to establish good habits.
It’s safe to say that 2016 has been an unusual year. From celebrity deaths to wacky election stories to creepy clowns roaming the streets, there hasn’t been a dull moment. But perhaps the most newsworthy happening in your life was that you got married! Congrats! Now, let’s talk about a few ways you and your new beloved can end the year on strong financial footing – even if the wacky news stories continue! First, just sit down and talk with your spouse.
Only about 16 percent of married working couples have a formally written out financial plan. Even if you don’t put together a formal plan, find some time to talk with each other, not just about daily and monthly budgets, but about your dreams and goals. See where things line up and where you might need to compromise. When things are scary, or you feel alone, you’re less likely to do them. Having your spouse on your side makes it easier to work toward your money goals. This is why it’s so important to establish common ground and good communication early on.
Now, I know that if I send you home and tell you to sit down at the kitchen table under the bright lights and talk about taxes, it’s probably not going to happen. Find a way to make financial talks fun. Head to your favorite inexpensive restaurant and chat while you eat. Pick a bottle of your favorite $10 wine and discuss your goals while you sip. It’s important to talk about your shared dreams as a couple, not just hard and fast numbers. This will help you feel like a team and feel like money isn’t a scary topic. It pays for the fun stuff after all!
Second, if you haven’t already, discuss bank accounts. You probably both came into the marriage with your own bank account, and it’s fine to keep those, but for most couples, a joint bank account may actually help things. Let’s say your necessary monthly expenses of mortgage, bills and savings (yes, that’s a necessary expense) total $2,000. Each spouse would contribute $1,000 to the joint account to make sure everything is covered. Then what’s left in each person’s individual account is theirs to use.
We find that this approach results in less worrying about what the other spouse is spending. So, if your husband has a penchant for Brooks Brothers alligator shoes and gets haircuts like he’s John Edwards, or your wife can’t live without the latest gadgets and just had to go see World Series Game Seven in person, you don’t have to stress about unpaid bills. (Of course we’re assuming that neither of you is using credit card debt to make the purchases.) We also find that there’s less judging each other with this approach, and that’s better for the marriage overall.
Along these same lines, now is also a great time to set up a joint savings or investment account. Going it alone can be discouraging, especially if you’re working with a small salary and can’t put more than $50 or $100 a month into the account. If you and your spouse are both contributing, however, that number grows that much faster and your progress is more exciting to watch. You’re also both less likely to skip a month, because you know the other one will know about it.
All of these suggestions also help couples get away from the individual “mine and yours” mindset and into the mindset that these assets and goals are “ours.” The key is that you’re a team, working together and as one.
Now, before the end-of-year holiday to-do list gets too long, call us and let us help you finish the year strong. We can look at your unique circumstances and help get you and your beloved on great financial ground for 2017 and beyond.
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