Many newlyweds can't imagine letting something like money get into the way of their marital happiness. However, around a third of coupled adults report that money problems cause the most fights in their relationship. What can newlyweds do to facilitate an open conversation around this fraught topic and reduce conflict? Below, we'll discuss three factors to consider when making the transition from single to married life.
To Combine, or Not to Combine?
One of the main questions many newlyweds are presented with involves whether to combine their finances. Some dual-income couples take a graduated "yours/mine/ours" approach, where both spouses put most of their paycheck into a joint account to pay bills, then keep some funds back for personal expenses, gifts, or entertainment. Others choose to keep their finances separate, divvying up the bills based on each spouse's relative income, the timing of their paychecks, and other factors.
Because there's no one-size-fits-all approach, you and your spouse should have a conversation about how you envision your finances going forward and what arrangement you think is the most workable. It's also fine to decide that a certain approach isn't working for you! It takes many couples a few tries to get their post-marriage budget on autopilot, and changes in income, employment status, or health can all be good reasons to revisit the arrangement.
Setting Out Financial Goals
One of the most effective ways to reduce financial conflict involves being on the same page when it comes to financial goals. Even if you and your spouse tend to swing to opposite ends of the spender-saver spectrum, creating some joint financial goals can ensure that you're on the right track despite any differences in your philosophies.
Some topics you may want to discuss and set goals on include:
- Retirement. Do you and your spouse both have access to a workplace retirement account? How much are you comfortable contributing? Do you hope to retire early, or plan to work until you reach Social Security age? Do you expect to travel and spend money in retirement, or envision a quieter, cheaper lifestyle?
- Children. Do you hope to have children? If so, will one of you become a stay-at-home parent, or do you plan to continue working?
- Homeownership. If you and your spouse are renting, one of the first topics you may want to discuss is whether you hope to purchase a home. One of your goals may include saving for a down payment or setting aside money for home maintenance costs.
- Travel. Is travel a priority for you? If so, consider using credit card reward points to boost your travel budget.
- Healthcare expenses. For many, health insurance and healthcare costs can be a significant part of your budget. Saving money in a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account can help reduce the impact of these expenses by letting you set aside tax-free funds.
Protecting Yourself and Your Future
One topic that often goes unaddressed among young couples is the need for life insurance and disability insurance. Even if you feel financially comfortable, an auto accident or sudden medical event could prevent you from working or taking care of your home. When your financial goals are based on your ability to keep working, suffering any injury or illness that interferes with this can be devastating. Talk to your spouse about looking into your life insurance and disability insurance options, which can pay out either a lump sum or monthly benefits to help supplement a loss of income.
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