Marriage and Money: Creating a Solid Financial Foundation

When you get married, you’re joining your lives together—finances included. Navigate budgets, bills and bank accounts with this helpful guide

Taking a relationship to the next step with marriage? Financially speaking, legally joining as a couple could mean shared finances and better deductions on your tax return. But what you take on in assets you can also take on in debt—which is why it’s critical for you and your partner to have a clear view of your finances and a shared vision for your future

Money talks can be tough. Get on the same page with these helpful talking points

Have a frank discussion about where each of you currently stands financially. 

Here’s where you lay all your financial cards on the table. If what’s yours will be theirs and vice versa, this is the time to let them know about your debts, obligations, income, and investments. 

Total up your assets, including all sources of income, investments, trusts, and property; and your debts, including credit cards, student loans, car payments, and mortgages. Has either of you ever declared bankruptcy? Check your credit scores for free with CreditWise® from Capital One. Don’t hold back―you’re aiming to get a clear assessment of where you stand as a team. 

Tip: File all important financially-related documents in a central location, such as personal accounting software you can both access. This is helpful for keeping your finances organized and archived. 

Discuss what money means to each of you

Our philosophies make us who we are, and these can include politics, religion, culture, and how we value money. 

What experiences in your lives have influenced your approaches to money? How does this affect your financial behavior? Identify some of your primary emotions toward money. Are they fear, pride, excitement, regret? How does money affect the way you balance your financial, career, and relationship goals? Thinking about this can help you be sensitive to your partner when approaching him or her about finances in the future. 

Are you merging accounts or keeping them separate? This is also a good time to decide whether to blend your incomes or keep separate “yours,’’ “mine,” and “ours” checking and savings accounts. Having at least one joint account makes bill-paying easier, but you may want to keep individual accounts for personal spending. 

Decide how forthcoming you expect one another to be about purchases

Many couples find it better to leave most personal expenses up to each partner, but consult one another about cumulative expenditures. You might not report back to your spouse about every transaction you make, but you should discuss big or sporadic purchases that may significantly impact your shared budget. This is all about maintaining trust and keeping you both informed. 

If you’re in financial difficulty, it might make more sense to keep all purchases—big, small, shared or individual—under closer scrutiny until circumstances change for the better. 

Balance your financial styles and personas

What are your attributes when it comes to money? Are you a saver or a spender? Are you an impulse shopper or a planner? Do you pay with cash only, or prefer to put it all on your card for those points and perks? Are you comfortable with debt, or do you pay everything off all at once? 

Find out which column you and your partner fall into. If you rarely overlap, it’s not deal-breaker—just keep an eye on areas where you need to compromise and meet in the middle. Remember, if one of you runs up debt on a jointly held credit account, you’re both responsible for it. 

Determine your financial roles

Do you like to control the budget, or prefer to pass that off to your partner? Determine who will pay the bills, how you will pay them, and who will ultimately keep track of the finances. Experts suggest involving both parties to some degree so you’re both participating in and informed about major decisions. 

After the big day…

It’s time to start working together as a couple to meet your goals and prepare for the future. Start with a brand new budget—or multiple budgets! If either of you has debts, develop a plan to pay them off. Next, update important documents and paperwork. This might include wills, life insurance beneficiaries, pension plans, and powers of attorney. Finally, plan for the future by creating and contributing to an emergency safety net and joint retirement fund.

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