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Love and Marriage: The one rule you must follow when combining finances

We are right in the middle of wedding season, and I’m guessing a lot of you have spent multiple weekends this summer celebrating with friends and family as they tie the knot. My anniversary is next week, and weddings always remind me of that summer in 2019, planning for the big event but also for joining our lives together to start a brand new life as a married couple. Including combining finances.

When people get married, it sets a lot of things into motion. Many are moving in together for the first time — choosing a home, combining furniture, and splitting up household chores. It’s an exciting time, but also one that comes with the stress of shaking up old routines and learning new ones.

It’s no secret that money is one of the most common causes of marital disagreements, so figuring out how to manage your finances as a married couple is a crucial step in setting yourself up for a successful marriage.

My wife does not like having conversations about money. She knows the importance of having a strong financial foundation, but she would rather not think about it. So rather than money being an ongoing discussion in our house, we agreed to have a catch-up once a month where we have a cup of coffee and spend an hour or two looking at our finances, revisiting where we’re doing well, and having an open dialogue about where we’re falling short and how to improve. That transparency allows us to stay on the same page, even when we’re not in complete agreement on something in our budget or investments.

Obviously, I’m a financial advisor, so this is kind of in my wheelhouse. Many of you don’t talk about finances all day like I do. Many of you are probably more like my wife and don’t even what to think about it. Or maybe you do think about it but don’t know how to act.

Everybody has different ideas of what a married couple’s finances should look like. Try searching Google for the right answer and see how many different “right answers” you come up with. Combine all of your accounts, keep them all separate, split bills, share bills, have one credit card, keep a credit card for surprises — all conflicting pieces of advice that may or may not work for you and your partner because every couple has different values and a different strategy for how to manage their money.

That’s why, when it comes to combining finances, there’s only one rule that will work for everybody: Talk about it.

Talk about it with each other. Talk about it with an advisor. But talk about it.

There’s a lot that goes into family finances. You want to have an efficient budget, maximize your savings, figure out where and how to invest. A lot of couples I meet with are completely blind to the fact that they have to update their insurance coverages and legal documents — power of attorney, estate plans, life insurance beneficiaries, disability coverage, and more. 

If you are about to get married or have been married for a few years without figuring this stuff out, I highly recommend that you talk with a financial advisor about this stuff. Why not pick up the phone and call someone who can give advice based on your situation rather than going down the Google rabbit hole?

At Family Financial Partners, we have a Tying the Knot plan that makes all of this really easy for you. It’s a one-time cost where you’ll speak with one of our advisors in person, receive a customized financial plan tailored to your values and beliefs about marriage finances, a checklist with all the steps you should take to combine your financial lives, and an entire year of follow-up service in case you get six months in and have a major life change or the previous plan wasn’t working.

Or if you just have a specific question about combining your finances as a couple, you’re always welcome to call me or one of the other advisors on our team. We’re here to make this process as smooth for you as possible.

Article by Jacob Buckley, MBA, Wealth Advisor at Family Financial Partners — a financial services firm in Lexington, Kentucky.

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