So you’ve got an engagement ring on your finger and everything has been micro-managed to within an inch of its life for your perfect wedding day. But what about the marriage that follows? How much time have you spent planning to make sure that it is equally perfect and will stay the course?
It is crucial to look at how the financial aspects of your union will work. I know it’s a lot less interesting than tasting wines but the fact is that the biggest single thing that couples argue over is money, so it makes sense to tackle this often taboo subject with your intended and make sure that you can find ways to become financially compatible.
1. Understand each other’s values
These are often inherited from our parents and will be influenced by our background too. One of you may be a saver who hankers for future financial security while the other is a profligate spender preferring to live for the day. Marriage involves compromise and this is one area which will test your ability to do that, so understanding what makes your partner tick financially will really help.
2. Keep no secrets
If you’re about to tie the knot, now is the time to come clean about that credit card bill you are struggling to pay off. Starting married life with financial secrets in your closet will only create resentment down the line. Have a frank discussion with each other about what savings and/or debt you have as well as your respective incomes and existing financial responsibilities.
3. To share or not to share
I have seen everything from those who have merged their finances completely in a ‘what’s mine is yours’ way to those who keep their incomes entirely separate and each pay into a joint account for shared costs. Either can work, although I believe that marriages based on sharing probably stand the best chance of success. Make sure that you are clear from the start how it will work and that both of you are in agreement.
4. Work out your common financial goals
Whatever stage of life you are at, it is important that you work out what your common financial goals are. Whether you see your future selves buying a mansion by the sea or raising a brood of university-educated children, you will need to have a sound financial plan which allows you to fulfil those dreams.
5. Divide up your financial responsibilities
Managing a household involves keeping a handle on the day-to-day stuff such as budgeting, bill paying and keeping track of your bank accounts. Decide who is going to be in charge of each of these jobs so that nothing gets overlooked because you both assume the other is dealing with it.
6. Plan for the unexpected
As a husband or wife, you will no longer just be looking after number one – you now have a significant other, and possibly children, to think about. This is the time to put some life insurance in place (or review your existing policies) so that your loved one or ones are protected if anything untoward should happen to you. You also need to consider your estate planning to make sure that if you die, your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
7. Create a habit of communication
It’s not the most fun aspect of a marriage, but sitting down regularly to talk about where you are at financially is important. Keeping the lines of communication open at all times stops issues from spiralling out of control and keeps you on track for your short and long-term goals.
8. Seek professional advice
It can be tricky to navigate the financial waters of marriage. Having an objective adviser on board can keep things on an even keel, ease the stress and make sure that your future together is every bit as perfect as your big day.