Your guide to marriage and money
Love and money can be complicated. Here's how to deal with finances before, during and after marriage.
According to research by Ramsey Solutions, money is the No. 1 reason couples fight. Seems obvious, but it plays out over and over again. An article from Marriage.com lists money and communication as two of the top three reasons for divorce (infidelity holds the top spot). So, when it comes to coupling, finances can determine success – or not.
Here are some considerations you should make before, during and after wedded bliss.
Before you walk down the aisle or cohabitate, it’s important to have open conversations about finances. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Be honest about your histories. It’s only fair for you and your soon-to-be spouse to be truthful about your financial past. You need to know if you’re marrying someone who carries a lot of debt or has been through a bankruptcy. These facts may become obstacles when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage together or reaching other financial goals.
Propose a prenup. You may think only the wealthy need prenuptial agreements, but, really, anyone coming into a marriage with personal assets or dependents should consider one. They may not be right for everyone, but they can be helpful when it comes to passing on property to your children or protecting you from your spouse’s debt.
Determine how to manage your finances. First, identify how you and your partner manage your finances separately – and embrace it. Once you decide to combine finances, play to your strengths. If you’re a savvy shopper and your partner is a calculated risk taker, rely on each other for managing those distinct aspects of your finances. There are several ways to manage your money as a couple (from splitting everything 50-50 to managing a household account with separate personal spending accounts) and you should agree on the method you’re going to use before you say, “I do.” This is not to say it won’t change, but having a plan will take the pressure out of making major decisions once you’re back home from your honeymoon.
Don’t start your life together in debt. Sure, you may have dreamed of a fairy tale wedding, but is it worth starting your new life in debt? According to the Ramsey study, the more debt you have, the more likely conversations about money turn negative. This should be an exciting new chapter, not a stressful one.
Every time there’s a job change, children enter the picture or new cars and homes appear on the horizon, your financial situation changes. And this means you should have an ongoing conversation with your spouse and your advisor about finances – at the very least check in on a regular basis and be mindful of these tips.
Track your spending. It’s easier to keep your spending in check when you hold each other accountable. This step starts with creating a household budget then being specific about a spending plan from there. You may decide to allow a certain amount of disposable income weekly or monthly for each partner or to put all spending money into an account earmarked for that purpose.
Tell the truth about any purchases. If you have the tendency to hide a shopping bag before your spouse comes home from work (one in three of those who argue with their spouse about money have hid purchases from their spouse), this will jeopardize your financial planning with certainty.
1 out of 3 couples who argue about money have hidden purchases from each other.
If you and your spouse don’t have the complete financial picture, how can you accurately manage it? This also leads to a break down in trust.
Set financial priorities together. Dreams and aspirations change, which is why it’s important to have regular check-ins with your spouse about financial goals. This means short- and long-term goals. Rank the top three financial priorities and have a weekly or monthly meeting to track your progress. This will give you the opportunity to change course if need be.
No one enters a marriage thinking it’s going to end, but about 40% to 50% of married couples in the United States get divorced, according to the American Psychological Association. Finances can be what turns an amicable divorce into a hostile one. If you’re separated, consider this:
Heed the advice of professionals. When it comes to love and money, opinions get heated. Try to avoid listening to your co-worker’s advice and get a professional’s help. Your advisor can guide you through the practical aspects of this emotional time and be an unbiased resource you can trust.
Close joint credit accounts. Once a divorce has been determined, get your partner to agree on closing all joint credit accounts so you stop accruing debt that both of you will be responsible for. Unless your spouse has a spending problem, hopefully he or she will be on board.
Open separate checking accounts. It’s best to close joint accounts and open new separate accounts rather than adding or removing names; it’ll give you a sense of security that you’re the only one with access. Change your direct deposit to go into the new account and start budgeting for yourself immediately.
Upskill your financial prowess. In many relationships, one person acts as the money manager. If you were not involved in managing the finances in your last relationship, now’s the time to get up to speed. Lean on your advisor to guide you and ask for resources that will help you manage your finances the way you want to.
A healthy relationship with finances and the ability to be honest about them will contribute to a healthy relationship with your spouse and set you up for success in your marriage.
If you’re mingling finances with your partner, be sure to:
- Schedule regular financial check-ins with your spouse to discuss financial goals and progress.
- Protect your financial success by considering a prenup before marriage or closing joint accounts after a marriage has dissolved.
- Whatever stage of marriage you’re in, get the advice of an advisor to guide you toward your financial goals.
Traveling on your own may be your ticket to a transformative experience.
“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world,” wrote British explorer and travel writer Freya Stark. Yet, many of us, accustomed to constant companionship, are intimidated to travel alone.
As a solo traveler, you can choose precisely what you want out of your experience and reawaken your independent spirit along the way. Say you find a great deal, but your spouse or friends can’t take time off. There’s no reason to stay home. Start packing!
A variety of travel advisors suggest the following:
Paris To link up with other travelers, head toward Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots, two well-regarded meeting places.
Seville The Andalusian capital offers colorful markets, picturesque architecture.
Dublin The Irish capital is a stroller’s delight, and its pubs allow you to strike up conversations with locals.
Iceland Use Reykjavik as a base from which to explore Iceland’s stark, dramatic beauty.
Vancouver Visitors explore the city’s waterside parks and revel n its bohemian atmosphere.
Queenstown This resort on New Zealand’s South Island draws serious adventure types for bungee jumping, horseback riding and zorbing (hurling oneself downhill inside a giant inflatable ball).
Safety is a concern for any traveler, but particularly those going solo. Follow these tips when you’re on your own:
- Carry identification, and store it in more than one place.
- Stay in open, public places, especially at night.
- Walk confidently and purposefully.
- Avoid drawing attention to yourself by your clothing or demeanor.
- Be circumspect when speaking with strangers.
- If a situation doesn’t feel right, extricate yourself from it.
- Avoid posting every move on social media.
- Make sure you leave a copy of your itinerary with someone at home; stay in contact via phone or email.
Remember The Single Surcharge
Tour operators, cruise lines and hotels may tack an extra charge onto your bill to offset the money they’re not making from a second occupant. This supplement may range from 25% to 100% of the tour cost. To avoid the single supplement, you may want to go with a tour operator that offers roommate matching based on similar tastes and personalities. Among others that specialize in solo travel – use your favorite search engine – check out G Adventures (gadventures.com), Intrepid Travel (intrepidtravel.com), Road Scholar (roadscholar.org) and the Holland America Line (hollandamerica.com). These firms are known to match single travelers.
Feeling inspired? Take action. A solo adventure may be just the ticket to becoming a little bolder in your everyday life.
Ready to take off on your own:
- Determine where you’re interested in traveling and what you want to get out of going it alone.
- Seek out last-minute deals if you have the flexibility and consider travel options that cater to solo travelers.
- Study up on tips for traveling alone and make sure you set a communication plan with someone back at home.
Managing your success
A promotion and a higher salary means taking another look at your financial plan.
A promotion is cause for celebration. You’ve worked hard to grow your career and should be proud of your newfound success. But with the new responsibilities you’ve taken on at work come new financial responsibilities.
A higher salary (hopefully significantly higher) provides the opportunity for you to reevaluate your financial position and consider where the new cash flow would best benefit you – now and in the future. Here are some ideas:
Revisit your budget: First things first, you need to see where you stand. With the higher salary, it’s a good time to reevaluate your budget and determine what the additional income means to day-to-day living for you and perhaps your family. This will help you avoid falling victim to mental accounting, where you treat your raise as separate income that can be used more frivolously. It will make you aware of what you’re working with in its entirety.
Pay down high-interest debt: A higher salary is great, but think about your wealth as part of your net worth, which includes your liabilities, too. This means paying down any debt – like credit card debt, student loans and car loans – that’s taking away from building positive net worth. While this may not excite you as much as a splurge, it will free up more disposable income in the future and save you interest in the process.
Increase savings: Lifestyle inflation, where your spending keeps pace or surpasses your new income, is a common problem. Instead, consciously increase your savings – and invest in your future. There are many savings options; it’s just a matter of determining what type of investment would get you closer to your financial goals. This is where your trusted advisor can help you evaluate your options and partner with you to make a plan that achieves your goals.
Build your “just in case” fund: A recent study from Bankrate found that only 29% of Americans have the recommended six months of expenses set aside for a rainy day. If you don’t, use your additional income to get there. While you hope good financial times last a lifetime, you never know what may happen – and it’s best to be prepared. That built-in flexibility means you’ll also be prepared to take advantage of unexpected opportunities that may come your way.
Reward yourself: Finally, you worked hard to earn that promotion, and you should treat yourself to something special. Just remember to be a bit pragmatic about it. If you got a $10,000 raise, don’t splurge on a $10,000 item. You won’t realize the impact of the entire raise for a year and taxes will come out of that, too. So, spend accordingly.
Being thoughtful about your financial goals and how your additional income can help get you there will ensure your continued financial success.
Recently promoted? Here’s what’s next:
- Reevaluate your budget and consider your net worth to get a complete picture of your new financial situation.
- Consider your short- and long-term financial goals, and partner with your advisor to achieve them.
- Celebrate your hard work by treating yourself to something you’ve been eyeing.
Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors. Raymond James is not affiliated with any companies mentioned in this material.
Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.