Congratulations on your engagement! Getting engaged is the first step in making a lifelong commitment to someone. Beyond wedding planning, there’s so much that needs to be discussed, especially when it comes to money. And by having these talks now, you can make sure you’re on the same page before you get married.
The Money Talk — Starting the Conversation With Your Significant Other
First and foremost, let your fiancé(e) know you want to have a conversation about budgeting, planning and major financial decisions. Agree on a time to have “the talk” so you can both come prepared with a list of goals and priorities. When finding a time, pick a day and place where you both can feel relaxed and engaged. Remember: honesty is key.
Financial Planning 101 for Engaged Couples
Once you’ve scheduled time to talk, use these financial tips as steps to outline your financial planning conversation with your fiancé(e).
Tell Your Partner About Any Outstanding Debts
Be honest about any outstanding credit card debt, student loans, car loans or personal loans that you each may have. It would also be wise for each of you to get a free copy of your credit report and share them with each other to ensure complete financial transparency.
Once all of your debts have been disclosed to one another, you can start brainstorming a debt payoff plan. While some newlyweds decide to combine their resources and work together on paying down the debts with the highest interest rates first, others believe that the person who built up the debt should pay it off.
Whatever financial decisions you make as a recently engaged couple, be sure that you’re both in agreement and that you’ll stick to the plan once you’re married.
Decide on Having Joint vs. Separate Bank Accounts
Once you’re married, should you create a joint bank account or keep separate bank accounts? This is a common financial decision engaged couples need to make. On one hand, having joint bank accounts can help with mutual money management, but on the other hand, separate bank accounts offers a certain sense of independence.
Traditionally, couples will merge their bank accounts. If one partner makes substantially more money than the other, it can make sense to have joint accounts for ease of bill pay. Additionally, if one partner is particularly good at managing the bills and the other partner doesn’t enjoy those tasks, then joint accounts are recommended. At the end of the day, joint accounts promote trust and transparency1 — the basis of every good marriage.
Sometimes, however, there are reasons to not have joint accounts. Having separate accounts allows couples to maintain more independence, while still having access to a joint account. For example, if one spouse is self-employed and needs to maintain a separate business account, not merging all of the accounts would make sense. Or, if you like surprising your spouse with trips and/or gifts, you may want to consider separate accounts so that they can’t see all of your purchases. However, even with separate accounts, couples will still typically create additional joint bank accounts for mutual savings and/or bills. In fact, according to a 2016 TD Bank survey, 76 percent of couples stated that they shared at least one bank account.2
Budget for Life as Newlyweds
Now that you’re an engaged couple, you’ll have lots of wedding planning you’ll need to budget for. But beyond that, there are day-to-day living expenses and a division of bills you’ll need to make clear. Make a list of all debts, household expenses and individual expenses; decide how you’re going to divide it up and stick to that plan.
Whether you have joint or separate bank accounts, you’ll still need to decide which bills get paid from and automate it to ensure no payments are missed. Some couples split bills evenly, while others may divide up shared expenses based on income. After looking at all of your debts, expenses and incomes, divide up the bills in a fair, sustainable way.
Discuss Your Financial Future: Lifestyle, Children and Retirement
Start by calculating how much each of you can save each month — it’s important to have an emergency fund, but also create an opportunity fund that you can use for large purchases, such as the down payment on a house.
When it comes to these areas, you can dive into deeper discussions, such as having kids, investing and retirement. From there, talk about what you each value and work together to develop concrete steps on how to achieve those goals.
Smart Financial Planning Can Keep Your Marriage Happy
When it comes to financial decisions, there isn’t always a right or wrong, but there is trust and transparency. Whatever you agree upon, stick to it and always keep your partner aware of any changes to your financial situation. Getting married to the love of your life is supposed to be fun, so be proactive, get your financial priorities in line, and make sure you and your partner are in agreement.
We hope you’ll take our money management tips for engaged couples to heart, and we bid you adieu as you go to say, “I do!” Congrats again, and here’s to a lifetime of happiness and financial well-being.