Getting ready to tie the knot? Congratulations! You may have booked the venue, ordered the flowers, picked the wedding party… but have you had “the talk?” The finances talk, that is.
Getting ready to tie the knot? Congratulations! You may have booked the venue, ordered the flowers, picked the wedding party… but have you had “the talk?” The finances talk, that is. Financial disagreements are often cited as a main contributor to marital discord, and although it doesn’t guarantee a perfect marriage, it’s important to establish open communication about financial matters.
There may be some things in your financial past you’d rather your significant other not know, but it’s important to be completely transparent. It’s common for one person to be better off financially than the other and keeping important information secret will only lead to issues later on. Address each other’s credit score and financial history. Credit scores will determine if you qualify for credit cards, loans, etc., and the terms of those accounts. Try to clear up any negative marks or incorrect information on your credit report. Make sure you’re comfortable with each other’s financial situations.
Decide if you will combine your finances together, keep them separate, or a combination of the two. How you each think of and approach money is very individual, so it’s important to do what works best for you. Is one of you a spender and one a saver? There are pros and cons to combining finances and keeping them separate, ranging from tax implications to qualifying for loans, so make sure you’re aware of all the factors before making your decision.
How will you manage debt as a couple? After you get married, your individual debts may become joint debts. Understand your partner’s financial history and know what debts they already have. When you’re married, those debts may legally become your responsibility. Learn about your partner’s financial obligations (and fully disclose your own) and understand what types of financial decisions he or she tends to make now so there are no surprises.
Once you’re married, you will need to decide if you will file taxes as “Married, filing jointly” or “Married, filing separately.” Filing jointly means you file one tax return together, while filing separately means each of you will file your own return. The IRS favors married couples filing jointly through tax incentives and deductions. Generally, it is more advantageous from a tax perspective to file jointly, but there are cases where filing separately may make more sense for you.
Your life together is just beginning, but where do you see yourselves in 15, 20, 25 years? One of you may want to go back to school, or stay home with your children. You may want to buy a home, a car, travel… and save for retirement. Make sure you both are on the same page regarding saving and spending, that you agree on which goals are the priority or at least come to a common ground when creating your joint financial plan.
Lastly, who will take care of paying the bills, keep track of expenses, and monitor cash flow? Maybe both of you will, but most of the time it falls to one person. Decide who’s willing and able to take on the responsibility, but agree to commit to your goals so that person isn’t the bad guy when sticking to the plan.