By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Being in the honeymoon stage after getting married is an exciting time! You’ve just committed to your partner and are starting your lives together. This new life together might mean moving in together, figuring out how to pay for your wedding debt, taking on new joint expenses, or preparing for some big expenses in the near future (buying a house, having a baby, etc.). This may lead to some stress around money. I enjoy working with lots of couples, so I thought I would share these 5 things you must do after getting married to help ease the stress of mixing marriage with money:
1) Combine to Save. Marriage has several financial advantages, especially when combining certain expenses. One big one that I have seen with clients (and in my own life!) is health insurance. If the person you are marrying works for a company with a great health insurance plan, then you could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year. After you get married, make sure your spouse adds you to their health insurance plan so you can reap those benefits. Often, there is a short window (30 days) to do this, so make it a priority after getting back from your honeymoon. Another area where you can save is auto and home/renter’s insurance. There is often significant monthly savings when you are both on the same auto insurance policy. And while you are at it, you can bundle your auto and home/renter’s insurance policy to save even more! Talk to your insurance professional after you get married (or even before if you live together before marriage) to determine if you can save some money on your insurance. There are many other areas where you could combine to save, for example, combining your cell phone plans, Netflix accounts, Costco memberships, or Amazon Prime memberships, so take a look at your particular situation to eliminate any overlap you have in your expenses.
2) Plan to Pay Off Debt. A survey of 1,010 randomly sampled newlywed couples found that entering marriage with consumer debt has a negative impact on newlywed levels of marital quality. The study also found that the large majority (70%) of newlyweds in this study brought debt into their marriage relationship. So, does this mean you should wait until you have no consumer debt to get married? Of course not! But you should come up with a plan to pay off that debt together as soon as you get married. And once you have that plan, stick to it! I have seen the huge impact that debt has on couples and their relationship, and I’ll tell you this: the couples who pay off their consumer debt seem happier. So, come up with a debt repayment plan together after you get married, and then say goodbye to consumer debt for good!
3) Merge Your Finances. There is no right or wrong answer on whether to merge your finances after marriage or not – every couple is different (for more on this topic, read Merging Your Finances After Marriage). The key is to have an open and honest conversation about money and your financial goals so that you can then work together to achieve those goals. When it comes to merging finances, I usually suggest using a joint account as the central account for a couple, which means all the income flows into that account and then common expenses are paid out of that account (mortgage/rent, utilities, auto expenses, groceries, insurance, etc.). But also…
4) Separate Your Finances. So, once you have a joint account as the central account for income and expenses, then I like to create separate accounts for each person which gets funded every week, two weeks, month (whatever works best for the couple) with their allocated “allowance” that they can spend on whatever they want. This allows each person to have some “fun” money without having to consult with the other person. In my marriage, we do this, and it is nice to be able to buy a gift for my wife from my personal account… it feels more like a gift from me when I’m using my “own money” for that. Here, again, you should have open and honest communication about what is a fair amount for each person to receive as their “allowance.” In my household, my wife gets more every week than I do, but we both agreed on that amount. Side note: if you own a business, be sure to keep a separate “business” account for all your business income and expenses, and then transfer your “salary” to your joint account (more on that here: 4 Money Tips for Small Business Owners).
5) Start a Joint FUNd. Once you have done the first four things you must do after getting married, hopefully, you have some money left over for fun! I like the idea of a FUN Fund (or FUNd for short) as a short-term savings account for joint experiences. Research has found that people who spent money on experiences rather than material items were happier and felt the money was better spent. Use this account to save for joint experiences, special occasions, stay-cations, travel, etc. When you spend this money on yourselves, you can spend it “guilt-free” because you know this money is for FUN!
Getting married is such a joyful occasion, and hopefully following the 5 things you must do after getting married in this post will help continue that happiness deep into your marriage. If you know a couple who is about to get married or just got married and wants a personalized plan on how to do any of this, please have them contact us to schedule a consultation. These are my five financial tips for newlyweds. Do you have some other ones? If so, please let us know in the comments section below.
- Published in Love and Marriage