And that’s a tough pill to swallow.
Especially when poll after poll have shown that finances are not only one of the biggest strains on a relationship, but also a topic that makes most people uncomfortable.
Let’s try to counteract some of that by starting here with 5 tips on how to successfully combine your finances as a married couple.
1: Speak Transparently About Your Assets and Liabilities
See, the thing is that the majority of us have grown up in cultures and families where finances are a guarded and private matter. That has left the topic feeling like its secretive at best, and taboo at worst.
The first step to conquering finances together is to lift that veil and be more transparent with one another.
One of the first stages of establishing and long-term relationship with the other should always be to deliberately share your current state of finances- including your debt.
While that may feel like a difficult thing to share (especially if you’re carrying around major student or credit card debt), it will allow you both to better recognize what you’re starting off with.
Here’s one handy tool that allows you and your partner to clearly calculate your assets and liabilities to identify your current net worth.
2: Come Up with a 5-10-15 Year Financial Plan
Coming up with a long-term financial plan is hands down one of the best exercises a couple can do. Not only will both partners walk away with tangible goals to work towards, but you’ll also get a better sense of the life your partner envisions.
After establishing what you’re starting with (see #1), this is your chance to discuss what the future might hold.
Here are a few things that you might consider for your financial plan:
(And remember- it’s not enough to decide whether you want them or not, the exercise works best when you match each goal to a desired deadline)
- -Owning a house or renting a house
- -Starting a business (capital required?)
- -Starting a family
- -Buying a car
- -Funding a wedding (how expensive?)
- -Goal retirement date
- -Other potential dependants (pets? Aging family members?)
3: Track Your Expenses
The third step to successfully combining your expenses is awareness. You’ll both want to know exactly where your money goes so that you can get a handle on staying in budget, avoiding unnecessary arguments about money habits and investing intelligently.
And what better way to do that than to start tracking your expenses both individually and collectively? The good news is tracking your expenses is much easier than it sounds. You can skip the excel sheets or the notebook and a pen and let technology do its thing.
Chances are your banking website already has a tracker built in, recording your expenses through debit or credit and neatly filing it into categories like ‘groceries,’ ‘entertainment’ and ‘travel.’
But if you want something even more specific so that you can know exactly where your money goes before fusing it with your partner’s, here’s a link to 12 free expense trackers courtesy of Forbes.
4: Keep Your Own Savings Account
This one might sound like a contradiction since we’re talking combining your finances, but hear us out. Every healthy relationship has a certain level of autonomy that helps both partners feel independent and confident. Our finances should reflect that too.
Keeping your own savings account will allow you to continue to develop your own personal wealth that you can then redirect into a retirement plan or other investments that are specific to you. After all expenses are paid towards your family unit, you can feel proud that you’re accumulating additional wealth that you can use to occasionally gift yourself-or even the other with!
Let’s take birthdays for example. Instead of using your combined finances to treat your significant other to a birthday present, it’ll be all the more meaningful if it comes out of your own personal reservoir.
5: Figure out the End
Okay, we don’t want to sound like Debbie Downers here, but let’s go back to the point we made at the beginning of this article.
There are a few ugly truths about relationships and money. One of those ugly truths is that divorce continues to be on the rise, and with that sometimes comes messy arguments about finances.
Tackling those hard topics at the beginning of a relationship can sometimes ensure that it never gets to the end in the first place. Everything we mentioned so far; transparency, coming up with a financial plan, tracking your expenses and keeping your own savings account will help you mitigate that risk.
But ultimately, having a plan in case of death, divorce or other emergency situations is also needed.
Here are a few things to get your discussion started:
- -Do you want an agreement put into place ahead of time? (i.e. a prenup)
- -What are your individual expectations around splitting the finances should the relationship end voluntarily?
- -Do you already have a will? When can you set one up to better protect your spouse in case of death?
- -Should the relationship end in divorce, how will things like RSP and alimony work?
See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?! Finances have a way of seeming way more daunting than they really are.
Once we can start taking steps like these, we’ll no doubt start seeing our finances improve both for ourselves individually, and in our families.
Happy Planning! – Indian Wedding Buzz
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