When my husband and I got married, we didn’t really discuss who would handle our finances. We stood, rather awkwardly, in the lobby of our bank and almost wordlessly, switched over his name to all my existing accounts.
Although my husband is a math teacher, I happily run much of our financial life. The bills, the credit cards, the checking accounts, retirement, and rather meager starts to our kids’ education fund have all fallen squarely into the “things I do” category.
I think it’s pretty common for one partner to take the reins in the money department, but as I found out the hard way, it can also be a lonely and overwhelming business to run the financial show solo. About halfway through our marriage, I finally had to make it a point to sit down and address some really important money matters.
Turns out, talking freely about our finances was a boost to our relationship and our bank account.
Separate accounts 1 of 8
Before you go any further in your money conversations, you and your partner will need to settle your differences when it comes to going joint or separate in your finances. Will you maintain separate checking and savings account? Join up for one joint? Keep both? Who will pay what bills from what account?
Some couples enjoy having a little "fun money" on the side while keeping a joint account for bills and expenses, while some are comfortable with one joint account. Decide ahead of time what works best for you.
Photo credit: Flickr/RikkisRefugeOther
Budgeting 2 of 8
Ugh, let me just say that I hate budgeting. Hate it, hate it, hate it. But because I tend to run the finances, I'm also the one that tends to be in the know about our spending. And if I'm not sharing that information? It tends to reflect in our credit cart statement and bills that month. So instead of playing catch-up every month, we are trying to sit down and literally, old-school style, jot down a nitty and gritty budget.
I really think budgeting is key to being honest together about your finances and encourages working together as a team. Now, if only I could stick to mine...
Photo credit: Flickr/kenteegardin
Credit card debt 3 of 8
I knew a woman once who thought that if she cancelled her credit card, the bills just disappeared. She was genuinely shocked when, years later, she found out she still carried a balance--and then some. True story. And while you may not be this extreme, you will need to discuss any lingering credit card debt with your spouse or spouse-to-be so you can decide how to tackle it together.
Additionally, you might want to talk about the role that credit cards will play in your everyday life. My husband came from a family that never used credit cards while I rarely handled cash growing up, so it took some finely-tuned adjusting to find our perfect mix together.
Photo credit: Flickr/seishin17
Retirement 4 of 8
Granted, talking about retirement might not exactly make great first date conversation, but if you are in a committed relationship, talking marriage, or newly-married, it is a discussion you need to have. It is so, so much easier to put aside money early in in your relationship rather than scrambling last-minute to throw together a future in the golden years together. You may especially benefit if you have a marriage like ours, where one spouse has a full-time job with benefits. In our case, with me as a full-time freelancer and no access to a retirement account through an employer, taking the step to meet with a financial planner and start my own retirement was great for my peace of mind and independence. I know I don't have to "rely" on my husband to ensure my own future.
Photo credit: Flickr/Tax Credits
Health insurance 5 of 8
I've gone without health insurance for approximately six months in my life. And can you guess in which six months my only two emergency hospitalizations have occurred? I thought for sure the third would occur as a result of the heart attack I had when reading the hospital bill statement. Who knew those little barf buckets could cost so much?
It may be the nurse in me talking, but if you haven't discussed the who and what of your healthcare coverage, do it! You don't want to find out what the strain and financial hardship of a sudden or chronic illness without insurance can do for your relationship.
Photo credit: Flickr/themikemcee
Life insurance 6 of 8
Speaking of insurance, this one's kind of important. Yes, it's inevitably morbid, because you are talking about your own deaths and all, but I also happen to think it's also, in a slightly twisted way, a sign of your love for each other. I get a strange sense of peace knowing that in the event that something would tragically happen to me, he wouldn't have to worry about paying for my funeral on top of everything else. Just remember, nothing says true love like a hefty life insurance policy, people.
Photo credit: Flickr/moolanomy
Savings 7 of 8
Now that you've settled who's paying what bills out of which account, (you've settled that, right?) it's time to focus on the rest of picture. Think long-term and start discussing what you need to be saving every month. Do you have the recommended six-month "safety net" of living expenses socked away? Do you need to focus on paying off some debt? Can you set up an automatic transfer to grow your savings account every month?
Photo credit: Flickr/Images_of_Money
Hopes and dreams 8 of 8
While we're on the topic of savings, don't forget to end on a romantic note as a couple and talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. After all, what's the point of all this money talk if it doesn't bring you closer together? Make a plan for how you hope to live your life as a couple, your individual hopes and dreams, and where you see yourself going together, literally and figuratively. It's the power of positive thinking and there's two of you now, so that's double the power, right.
Romantic gondola ride, anyone?
Photo credit: Flickr/vincetq
Photo credit: Flickr/aresauburn
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