After the I do’s: Merging Your Money
Banking, budgets and bills, there might not be anything less romantic but there might also not be anything more important. A marriage is not only the joining of two lives and two families; it’s the joining of two financial situations, two banks accounts and two debt loads. With wedding season in full swing, we’re taking a moment to address what happens after you say I do.
Putting Romance on the Back Burner
With almost 50% of marriages ending in divorce and a large percentage of Canadians saying that the number one issue in their marriage is money, dealing with your finances pre-wedding is probably the best wedding gift you can give yourselves. It’s ok to put the romance on the back burner for a bit.
Every couple is different and how you go about discussing your finances will also be different. We think a good rule of thumb to go by is to at least start the conversation before you begin planning the actually wedding celebration. Weddings can cost a small fortune and no one wants to start off a marriage by adding on even more debt and financial stress to their relationship.
How to Start to Conversation?
Openly discussing income, credit card debt and bank account balances can be stressful, intimidating and sometimes even uncomfortable. Keep in mind though that you’re joining two lives together and you’ll be discussing finances together for the rest of your lives. It’s best to get comfortable with it right away. Here are a few questions you should consider if you’re having trouble starting the pre-wedding money talk.
- How much debt does each of you have? Including credit card debt, personal loans and student loans.
- Do you want to completely join your finances, share one joint account or keep everything separate?
- Is buying a home important to either of you?
- Is paying for a large wedding possible given your current financial situations?
- Is a large wedding more important than purchasing a house right away?
- Are children part of your plan and how will they affect your financial decisions?
Smart financial discussions and decisions should hopefully provide a stable foundation for your marriage.
Take control of your finances in 5 easy steps.
Maintaining a Healthy Financial Relationship
Depending on your relationship and your finances, there are countless options for dealing with merging your money after you say I do. Generally speaking, the follow are 4 of the most important concerns you should address and come up with a plan for while you discuss your financial future together.
A Place to Put Your Money
We’ll assume here that you both have a least a small amount of money in the form of chequing accounts, saving accounts and maybe even RRSPs and TFSAs. It’s perfectly fine to keep all of that separate, lots of couples go this route. What you need to discuss is how you’re going to pay for the daily expenses:
- If you’re going to buy a house together, where are the mortgage payments going to come from?
- Who is going to pay for utilities?
- Who is going to pay for food and other household items?
- Do you both have a vehicle? Or if you’re going to share one, who is going to pay for that?
A great way to handle all of these daily and monthly necessary expenses is to open one joint account. You can keep all your separate accounts and simply transfers an agreed upon amount to your joint account each month to pay for all the expenses you share. This way you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Common Financial Goals
The financial goals you set for yourself when you were living alone and not planning for a marriage may not match those of your future spouse. It’s important that you discuss what goals are most important to each of you and then decide together what you’re going to collectively work toward.
- Where do you want your finances to be in the near future?
- Where do you want your finances to be in the distant future?
- Is saving for a home, retirement or a rainy day more important?
Set a Budget
Now that you know what your common financial goals are, you need to figure out how you’re going to achieve them. Creating a budget should help you set a plan in motion. This is where you may need to discuss your spending habits. Since you are now a team working toward a common goal, it’s important that you are open and willing to adjust your previous spending habits. Make sure you’re both willing to compromise on certain expenses or luxuries. If one of you feels as though you are being forced to make more concessions than the other, you may find that you’re setting yourselves up for problems in the future.
Need help creating a budget? Read this article.
Honesty Should Always be Your Policy
We all have our vices and if yours in online shopping, fancy meals out or anything that involves spending a good chunk of your income you need to make sure your future spouse knows about it. Finances are stressful enough without lies; make honesty about your spending habits a priority. Furthermore, this is where you should discuss any debts you might have previously not mentioned.
Your Money, Your Marriage, Your Plan
Just remember that it’s your marriage and your money so deal with it in whatever way best suits the both of you. The worst thing you can do it to ignore your finances all together, have a couple of discussions, make a plan and then get back to celebrating.