Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.
Before your big day, much of the financial talk may have been around budgeting for your wedding and planning your honeymoon. But while not nearly as exciting, there’s another vital part of your new partnership that should be considered: your future finances.
Finances can be one of the biggest sources of stress and tension in a marriage. However, open communication and careful planning now can help you avoid many problems down the road.
Here are five important areas to examine before you walk down the aisle:
It’s important for you and your future spouse to talk about your medium and longer-term goals and priorities now in order to avoid surprises down the road.
This involves examining what’s important to both of you and if there are any big differences in what you both want. For example, are you on the same page about if, and when, you want to start a family, whether you will buy a home, what kind and where, what fun things you expect to spend money on, and how you will save for retirement? Do you both intend to work full-time or does one partner hope to be a stay-at-home parent? And, what does “financial success” look like to each of you?
Don’t worry if you don’t have exactly the same goals. That’s not unusual. But having this discussion will help you understand what you can expect from each other, and can also be an opportunity to consider where each of you could make compromises and how you can work together to achieve both your goals simultaneously.
Budgets and savings
Once you have an idea of where you both want to head in the future, it’s important to create a budget and a plan to get you there.
This process involves understanding how much combined income you will have to live on, how much you will need each month to pay your bills, where you can cut back on spending and what might be left over to save for the things you want, such as a new car or home, and for retirement.
It’s also possible that you could have different spending habits that could cause tensions in the future. So, compromising and coming up with a plan that works for both of you is important.
This is not about finger pointing or looking over each other’s shoulders. It’s about ensuring you start your future together on the best possible financial footing and can lay the foundations needed to achieve both your goals.
Bank accountants and bills
An important decision to make is whether you and your partner will pool all your money, keep separate bank accounts or have a combination of joint and separate accounts.
If you are both working, you may want to keep your own accounts and then create a joint account that you both contribute to for family expenses, such as the mortgage or rent, utilities, bills, groceries and so on. Or you may decide that each of you will pay certain bills from your own account.
There is no right or wrong decision here. It’s about what works best for you and your spouse. Some people believe that having separate bank accounts lessens the sense of unity in a marriage or signals a lack trust in one another. Others will tell you that having your own bank or credit card accounts that allow you to spend in the way you want can reduce arguments about money.
Did you know that your Will, if you have one, will become invalid when you marry, unless it specifically states it was made “in contemplation of marriage”?
If you don’t update your Will to reflect your new status, and unfortunately pass away, a large part of your estate may be awarded to your spouse. This, of course, may not be a problem, especially if it’s your first marriage. It could, however, be an issue if you have children from a previous marriage or if there are other people you want to provide for.
Also, if you are coming into the marriage with large financial assets or a property, you may want to consider whether you need a prenuptial agreement if things don’t turn out as you’d hoped.
In addition to considering whether you need private health insurance as a family, this may also be a good time to discuss life, income protection and other insurance with your future spouse.
You may already have some kind of insurance cover, for example, via your superannuation fund, but if you have a mortgage, debts or other liabilities, will this cover your expenses if one of you is unable to work for any reason, becomes disabled and needs ongoing expensive medical care or passes away?
Talk about it
Don’t to let small problems or assumptions grow into larger issues later on in your marriage. Talking about things and having open lines of communications could go a long way in preventing future financial tensions.
It may also pay to talk to a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®professional, who can help you work out your combined financial goals, budget better and develop a plan to help you grow your wealth so that you can achieve your goals. A good planner will also be well placed to help you with your Will, estate planning and insurance requirements.
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