Let’s Talk About Money: How to Organize Your Finances as a Married Couple
Written By: Debbie Dorman, Equity Services, Inc
Congratulations! You have found the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. You get engaged and start planning your wedding. Did you know that most people spend more time planning their wedding than obtaining premarital counseling to see if their marriage will stand the test of time? money
Before you commit, please plan on obtaining premarital counseling to see if you align on values that include, MONEY, RELIGION, KIDS, IN-LAWS, and SEX.
This article will focus on money. Money can be a very loaded topic and is a frequent source of discord in relationships. Couples that sit down and discuss their budget on a regular basis report a higher level of satisfaction in their relationship . Are you willing to sit down at the kitchen table once a month to review? Make it a habit like brushing your teeth or going to the gym.
The simplest things are sometimes the most difficult to do. I would encourage you to start your financial life off on the right foot.
Tips for Organizing Your Finances as a Married Couple:
- Establish a budget. Make a list of NEEDS versus WANTS. Needs would encompass shelter, food, transportation, utilities, internet, groceries, and different insurances. Wants are non-essentials, like luxury items or fancy vacations.
- When you both sit down to review monthly finances, you can talk about what is working and what needs to be tweaked.
- Create a joint account for household expenses. If you earn the same amount of income, split your contribution 50/50. If one person is making $200,000 and the other $50,000 split your joint household contribution accordingly.
- Establish an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of living expenses. Unfortunately, you never know when an emergency might occur, and it’s better to be prepared.
- Budget for home repairs. Although you may not need to make repairs every year, you can count on putting approximately 2% of your home’s value away for needed expenses and repairs.
- Some people prefer having a savings account for different categories and setting each one up for automatic payment. FYI: Credit Unions frequently offer more “free” accounts than the big banks. If you do this, you won’t miss it.
- When buying a home, stay UNDER what you can afford. It’s less stressful and provides some breathing room. It may also provide you the ability to be a stay-at-home parent if you do not have as much debt.
- You each should have your own personal bank account. Although you are a couple, you each work hard for your money and should feel in charge of where it goes! Of course, it is important to talk about this and come up with a plan that works for both partners.
- You should each have a retirement account. If your company offers a plan, contribute! If you are an independent contractor, you can open a retirement plan directly with certain companies or through a financial advisor.
- You should both be contributing to a retirement plan. The burden should not fall on just one partner. If you decide that one partner will stay home, if you have children, you can contribute to a spousal retirement account.
- Life insurance should be a cornerstone of a financial plan. Purchase this while you are young and healthy. Life insurance through your place of employment is NOT usually portable. If you leave or are terminated, you can’t take it with you. If you have children, it is important that you have a policy on the parent who stays home. If something happens to the stay-at-home parent, it can be expensive to hire help. Your parents or in-laws may not be able to help with the day-to-day care of children when you are working. As you get older, life insurance becomes more expensive and if you develop certain conditions, you may no longer qualify for coverage. I suggest going through a financial advisor as it costs you the same if you were to go directly to an insurance company. There are many types of life insurance and some offer options to access cash should you not die, but become critically, chronically, or terminally ill. With this, it’s all about the details, and a professional can help guide you to an appropriate solution.
College Planning for Kids
What are your thoughts on a college fund for your child?
Consider if you will encourage your kids to dual enroll in high school and a community college to get core credits out of the way, and then attend a state school.
Think through if you want them to have some “skin in the game” and contribute a portion of the costs.
Is it your dream to pay for any school they want?
Perhaps you think this should be your kid’s responsibility to figure it out and pay for their own education.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Giving or loaning money to family: You both need to be on the same page and provide a united front when doing this. You should NOT be guilted into continually “saving” or enabling someone who refuses to be financially responsible. I have worked with clients who have partners who continually bail out family members—this often leads to conflict and in some cases divorce.
- Credit card debt: Do you each carry debt or pay off your credit card(s) monthly? What are your thoughts on debt?
- Money secrets: Hiding money or purchases is never the right thing to do. Be honest about your expenses, debt, and financial needs.
- Charitable giving: How do you feel about giving to your place of worship or another cause that is close to your heart? Would you prefer to write a check, or volunteer your time?
- Divorce: If one or both of you have been previously married and have minor children, the divorce rate in these marriages is 73% . If this occurs, money becomes an even BIGGER challenge. If one of you has saved for your child’s education and the other has not, is there an expectation that the person who has saved will contribute to their step-child?
If you do not align on these issues before you are married, this will come back to haunt you down the road.
One of the biggest fallacies about financial planning is, “You need a lot of money to start”. That is simply not true! It’s about starting and consistently repeating good behaviors.
If you are overwhelmed by how to start or who to speak to, please feel free to reach out to me at 770-512-5131.
Debbie Dorman is a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative of, and offers securities and investment advisory services solely through Equity Services, Inc. Member FINRA\SIPC, 1050 Crown Pointe Parkway, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30338 770.512.5100. Apogee Financial Partners and all other persons and entities are independent of Equity Services, Inc.