You have just taken the most important step of your adult life. You have chosen the man or woman of your dreams, fallen in love and (probably after living together for a while), gotten married. Now comes the first major barrier to cross together as a married couple. It is time to merge your finances. This is not just an issue, it is the issue in most marriages. Money is the one subject almost all married couples fight over. Perhaps that is why it is one we avoid as long as possible. Today is a good day to take control of this matter.
When two adults are living together, they function separately, while together. One person usually pays the bills (writes the checks) and both people pony up their share of the expense. Each person keeps up with his or her own records, credit report, and tax documents. This is normal in today’s society. However, that all changes when a couple marries. Finances are combined and credit ratings reflect higher incomes and more room for maturity. The purchase of the family home, automobiles, and furnishings are equal responsibilities. Combined savings and investments make a more impressive impact when financing high dollar purchases.
Hopefully, before the wedding, you honestly discussed each of your financial situations. If you are entering into a union where one person has a huge amount of outstanding debt or a poor credit history, this is something that you will have to correct. Though one spouse entering a marriage with a large debt will not affect the other spouse’s financial stability, it will be a major issue when you are trying to purchase a home or establish a new line of credit.
It is important, that you address each of the following items within the first six months of your marriage…
It is time for an honest and open discussion about the debts each of you bring to the union. Gather copies of your bills, credit reports, and statements. Write all your assets and debts on one sheet of paper and face the truth of your situation. If there is a problem, decide together how you can correct the problem. Include a spreadsheet of all expenses and decide together if changes are required to ensure your standard of living. If you find you are in a situation that is beyond your scope, click here for help. (Visit Plumfund.com, a website to help with personal fund raising).
It is important to be honest about all money and assets each person has. This includes trust funds, savings, IRA’s and retirement accounts and insurance. Decide together what changes need to be made. Update beneficiaries of policies. Add spouses names to titles of ownership. Even if you have a prenuptial agreement and the assets are not accessible to the spouse, they need to know about them. Failure to address paperwork will cause assets to go to the prior designee on your paperwork. If something happens to you, it is unfair for the remaining spouse to be left in the dark about your assets.
While many people keep their accounts separate, the names of both spouses should be added to the accounts and beneficiaries updated. This ensures your spouse has access to the money after your death. Failure to do this will result in your funds going to the last designated person. This is sometimes your family (parents or siblings) or your ex-spouse. The time and money it takes to unravel this mess is massive. Take care of it now.
Update or create your will or living will. Explain your wishes to each other and write them down to keep for future reference. Include your decision on organ donorship.
These necessary financial responsibilities are important and how you handle them together will define your marriage. Do not put it off. Begin your life together with a sensible and precise financial plan.
Happy Wedding Planning!