Are you planning on getting married? Have you recently married? As you begin your life together with your new partner, it’s important for you to discuss your financial future. One of the most important aspects of your new life together is getting your finances on the same page.
Here are some priorities you might want to include on your marital financial to-do list.
Plan for retirement
We are all currently saving and investing for the future. There’s a chance that decades from now, many of us will end up millionaires. Actually, we may need to become millionaires.
Why? Well, according to current Social Security Administration projections, today’s 65-year-old retiree is looking at a retirement of approximately 20 years. The average life expectancy for a 65-year-old man is 84, and the average life expectancy for a 65-year-old woman is 87. And, some of these people will even live past 100. The number of people who will make it to this age is much greater than in previous generations.
Given ongoing advances in health care, how long do you think you will live? It may be common for members of Gen X or Gen Y to live until they are 90 or 100. If you factor in inflation’s effect on the cost of goods and services, you will likely need $100,000 or more a year for 30 years to have a nice retirement without outliving your money.
This (strong) possibility means you may want to make saving for retirement a high priority.
Often, one spouse is more risk-averse than the other. So, you need to agree on the investment approach you take. It’s helpful to engage the help of a financial advisor who can assist you in determining how much money you will need for your financial goals.
Many of us go through life shouldering five or even six-figures worth of debt. When couples marry, the danger is that one spouse’s debt will be “his debt” or “her debt.” Arguments may start because “your debt” is hurting “us.”
Debt management should be a priority for any newly married couple. There are debts, which we assume on the way to a positive result, such as a mortgage. However, there are also debts we assume through our credit cards and other channels. The secondary form of debt may not benefit us in the long-term.
Live within your means
It’s important to understand your income and expenses. An established, mutually agreed-upon budget can be very helpful in this regard. Engaging the expertise of a financial planner may help you establish your budget and help you navigate the merging of your finances.
Different people have different levels of thrift and different perceptions of what a “bargain” looks like. Your spouse may pick up a “bargain” that you would call an extravagance. You may be comfortable throwing away items that only have one or two more uses. Your spouse may prefer to use something until the very last drop.
Because of these differences in perception, it’s ideal to identify ways you can mutually maintain living within your means. If you don’t, the perception gap between your views could result in financial frustration and unnecessary turmoil. Take the time to understand your finances, together, so that you are able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle without destroying your bank account.
Save for college
If you plan to have children, it’s never too soon to start saving for college. You can do it a little at a time and use various methods. You can open a college savings account with equity investment options or investment options that pose lower risks. A 529 Plan may offer some fine tax breaks.
Research the savings choices that are available to you and identify what makes the most sense for your lifestyle and your children’s future. Regardless of how you approach it, make it a priority to establish a plan for your children’s college education.
If you are under 40, you may not have any kind of disability or life insurance. Now may be the right time to buy a policy. Purchasing life or disability insurance early can be very cost-efficient. Buying a term life policy (or even a permanent life policy) when you are young and healthy, is an advisable decision.
It’s easy to write this particular item off as an unnecessary expense. If you’re healthy you may struggle to remember how quickly health can change. Buying an insurance policy while you are young, capable, and healthy will allow you to pay the lowest premiums. People over the age of 40 or those who are obese, diabetic, or heavy smokers or drinkers will face increased policy costs.
While you may not be able to envision a time where you will need it, remember that accidents and health conditions often arise without any warning. Having a back-up plan in place, that will safeguard you in the case of an unexpected occurrence, is the best way to protect you, your spouse, and your family.
Communicate to avoid surprises
No matter how much of a “we” a couple becomes, there is always the need for some private space, some individual pursuits, and the occasional “me time.” Regarding your shared financial life; however, this is not the best approach.
When a spouse starts to hide a money-related matter or omit it from conversations, it’s a warning sign that there is potential trouble. Open, honest conversations about money are the best way to avoid problems in your finances (as well as your relationship).
Build an emergency fund
Too many couples live paycheck to paycheck. This lifestyle is both dangerous and unsustainable. To avoid this misstep, consider building up a cash reserve. This reserve should not be the same as your savings account. Rather, it should serve as an emergency fund, which you use in the circumstance that unanticipated costs arise.
For example, you may experience unexpected car repairs, home repairs, or medical issues. If you have an emergency fund, you will be able to cover the unexpected financial issue without suffering a deficit in another area (such as paying your mortgage or rent late). An emergency fund will also enable you to avoid accumulating debt on credit cards.
Building an emergency fund can be a gradual process. Hopefully, you will only encounter the need to use your cash reserve once in a blue moon. Therefore, you can put a small portion of your monthly income toward this fund, knowing that you can tap into it should things get rough. You will not regret having an emergency fund.
The bottom line
Engagement and marital bliss can be such an exciting time that you may forget about the financial impact of getting married. Don’t let your fairytale romance cloud your vision so much that you put off organizing your finances as a new couple.
If you feel like you don’t know where to begin, consider engaging the assistance of a financial planner. Whether you’re on top of your finances, or you’ve never attempted to create a budget, a financial planner can help you organize your money and plan for your future. Having a financial advisor on your team will enable you to make the most of your money now so that you can live comfortably in retirement. They will also help you and your spouse navigate the more difficult financial decisions you will need to make, and offer you expert advice.
Approach the financial side of your marriage like you approach all life-altering decisions in your life. Take time to understand where you are, where you want to be, and how you will get there, together. Don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations or to ask for help when you need it. In the end, you will be glad you have invested the time and effort.