Marriage and money: 10 tips for financial bliss
These tips can help you start your marriage on the right financial foot.
They say money can’t buy happiness, but when it comes to your marriage, just talking about money goes a long way. To get the conversation started, here’s a checklist designed to help you and your partner budget happily ever after.
On the road to marriage
Give yourselves a financial checkup
Many couples may put off talking about money before marriage, but that lack of knowledge can be pretty risky; past mistakes can affect your future together. Get to know each other’s financial situation, like how many credit cards you each have and how you spend your money—including what kinds of thing you both indulge in—before you walk down the aisle. Getting a good grasp on your partner’s spending habits and financial picture will help you make decisions on how to merge your money after you get married.
Understand your partner’s debt
Get to know what your partner’s debt looks like before you combine your finances. If needed, you can work together to get debts paid down. Until that happens, keep your finances separate—for example, try to avoid opening a joint account, cosigning or adding your partner as an authorized user. You’ll want at least one good credit history to fall back on if there are wedding bells in your future. Learn more strategies for paying down debt.
Save for the wedding and beyond
Once you announce your engagement, open a savings account earmarked for your financial goals and future expenses. Generally speaking, many experts recommend putting at least 10 percent of your combined income into savings each month. If you’re saving for a wedding, you might consider boosting that amount so you can continue contributing to your normal savings while still putting money away for the big day. Even if you’ll have help paying for the wedding, you’ll likely still want some money saved, perhaps for a honeymoon or a down payment on a new home.
Create a budget you both can live by
Get all your bills and paperwork together and literally put everything on the table. Calculate just how much you’ll owe each month, how much combined income you’ll have and what’s actually left when everything’s said and done. Don’t forget to factor in any potential wedding or honeymoon expenses. Also, it’s helpful to set spending limits. Before you take those vows, agree on a set dollar amount each of you can spend without talking to the other first.
Decide who manages what
When it comes to handling your finances, it’s a good idea that each of you plays a part. For example, one person might take on the day-to-day bills while the other tackles long-term investments and retirement plans.
After the big day
To combine or not to combine?
There are a number of different ways you can manage money in marriage. So weigh your options and figure out which method works best for both of you. You might consider opening a joint account, linking your individual accounts together or continuing with separate accounts. It’s a personal decision, so consider the options and decide which works for your lifestyle.
Update your beneficiaries
Once you’re married, you can name your spouse as a beneficiary—the person who receives money and benefits if something were to happen to you. This applies to things like life insurance, 401(k) plans, your will and any other benefits for which they might be eligible.
Change your withholdings
Married couples can decide to file taxes either jointly or separately, so talk to your spouse and your tax professional about which is right for your situation. Then, grab those W-4s and take a second look at your payroll withholdings: You may need to adjust them. Need help figuring it out? Use the Internal Revenue Service calculator. For more details, we broke down how your taxes may be affected by marriage.
Have a financial date night
Talking about money should be a healthy, ongoing conversation—there’s no reason to wait for something to go wrong. So set some time aside every month to delegate additional money-related tasks, talk about future financial decisions and see the progress you’ve made together toward accomplishing your goals.
Tell your bank if you change your name
If you’re thinking of changing your name when you get married, be aware that the process varies by state. Don’t forget that you’ll need to change it on all your banking and investment accounts as well. Call or visit your bank, or look at its website, to learn about the process.
If you’re a Bank of America customer you’ll need to bring a government-issued photo ID along with your marriage certificate to any Bank of America financial center. A banking specialist will give you supporting forms to complete and will assist you with obtaining a new debit card and/or credit card. If you do not live near a Banking Center, contact Customer Service at 800.432.1000.