Couples getting married have a lot to discuss before their weddings: Venues. Entertainment. Floral arrangements.
What may not come up as often, but what definitely should, are finances, according to Jill Schlesinger, senior CFP board ambassador for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
“Marriage is two different things. It’s a spiritual union, and it’s a legal union,” said Schlesinger, who is also a AAA member. “The legal part of it can be really important. You are joining your financial lives and there is no single playbook on how to do that.”
Here are some of Schlesinger’s tips for new couples merging their finances.
Start a Conversation
Whether it’s student loan debt or inherited wealth, partners should be upfront about their financial backgrounds.
Tell your partner if you have money issues. This can spur a conversation about creating a system for sharing expenses and handling finances. It could also help outline goals.
“I’m huge into goals,” Schlesinger said. “Even if your goals change, you have to start somewhere.”
Make It Your Own
It’s fine for couples to maintain separate accounts if the decision is made together.
Every marriage has some division of labor. It’s OK if one partner loves to track spending or takes a lead with investing. What’s not OK is for either partner to be in the dark about the couple’s finances.
“That can be really dangerous,” Schlesinger said. “Sharing of information is incredibly important. Who does a certain task is less important than both people understanding the task.”
Marrying someone does not automatically impact your credit rating, Schlesinger said. But jointly applying for credit can.
New couples shouldn’t feel locked in to one particular financial system. Goals and financial management practices, like relationships themselves, evolve over time.
Couples who’ve combined finances – what did you learn? Tell us in the comments.
Visit AAA.com/Deposits for some of the ways AAA can help couples combine finances.