First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… mapping out your future with your financial advisor?
While those may not be the real ending words to that song we used to sing as kids, it certainly rings true for newlyweds starting a life together. Marriage is one of the most exciting times in any couple’s lives, and while it’s important that this momentous occasion gets the celebratory attention it deserves, the fundamental steps every couple should take often get ignored until it’s too late. Going through these steps with your spouse-to-be should be up there on your pre-wedding checklist along with tasting cakes, picking your venue, and planning your honeymoon, so that you can start your marriage on the right path.
In this blog, Rebecca and I are giving you some tips and tools from our financial checklist, both as newlyweds and as financial experts.
It’s important to set up some goals for the two of you. Do you want to buy a house? Where and when? Have kids? How many and when? Go back to school? Take a big trip to celebrate your first anniversary? Start a business together? All of these questions are important, and have probably been discussed before marriage, but now is the time for those dreams to become plans — which means they have to fit in the budget as well!
Sitting down to talk about your finances with your spouse may not sound like the most fun in the world. But, there’s no reason that a tough conversation like this one has to be a drag. Make it into a game – open a bottle of wine, write down questions for each other and draw them out of a bowl, maybe take a sip every time you and your spouse agree on a plan. Get creative!
If all of this sounds too intimidating, however, a good financial advisor will be able to comfortably lead you through these talking points. No matter how you decide to open up on this topic, remember that you as a couple don’t need to come up with the best plan of action – an advisor will take your goals and dreams into account and put together a comprehensive strategy to get you there.
No More Secrets
Unfortunately, arguing over money is one of the most common fights a couple can have, so having an understanding about this now will save your relationship later. Open up and be honest with each other about your spending and saving habits. You’re now part of a team, and the decisions you make while spending are going to directly impact your partner. Now is not the time to hide debts or purchasing splurges from your future spouse—this is a recipe for disaster, and it is essential you work together to deal with financial trouble-spots or bad habits before they snowball and are impossible to solve.
If you both really feel like you are on the same page when it comes to your budget and your spending allowances, then setting guidelines on purchase limits is a great alternative and a bit less invasive. I loved this tip from a recent Forbes article — fellow financial planner Mark La Spisa says, “If I spend $20, that’s no big deal… but if I spent $1,000? You may feel upset.” This is a great way of looking at things. Figure out what limit is most comfortable for the two of you. Set up some boundaries on spending and goals for saving that work for you both, and stick to them.
Combining Your Assets
This step is where having a financial advisor is really going to help you both. This can be a stressful process, so having a professional give you advice on how to divide or combine your accounts and your debts will take a lot of stress off of your shoulders.
If you noticed, I did say divide OR combine your accounts. There are typically a few routes that couples take when reviewing their finances. Perfectly explained by The Washington Post, “You can combine all of your accounts, keep them all separate or opt for a combination of the two.” For instance, if your spouse is carrying a lot of debt or has an account in collections, it might not be the best option to link your good credit to their in-progress credit. No matter how you decide to split or combine your accounts, both parties should know exactly what is going on with every account to avoid any confusion.
In Case of Emergency
No one wants to discuss updating a will while in the midst of celebrating the start of a lifelong journey, but having one in place will give your spouse and beneficiaries peace of mind in case of any emergency. Meeting with an attorney to draft even the most basic document will force you to consider everything from who should make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to yourself (and what those choices would be), to what happens to your social media accounts (and content in them) when you pass. Additionally, preparing for an emergency should be a big part of your financial planning. Life happens. And if it happens to you when you’re least expecting it, having a cushion of finances available will make the sting of it all hurt a little bit less. Discuss with your financial advisor what you feel comfortable putting into an emergency fund (different from a savings fund!) and you’ll be all set for whatever life brings.
Being fully prepared for an emergency, however, is more than just having extra money in the bank. Exploring your insurance options to ensure you and your family are protected in case of lawsuit, illness or death is also something your financial advisor can help you with. You are now one half of two, and your plans should reflect that!
Growing Old Together
Lastly, you want to be able to grow old together stress-free. One day you’ll both want to retire. When that day comes, you don’t want to look back on the years you dedicated to working and regret not saving a little bit extra to enjoy your gray-haired days. Keep in tune with your company’s retirement fund options, and ensure that you’re not only putting enough towards your 401(k) to get any matching contributions offered, but that you save on your own to balance out tax implications when it’s time to withdraw. The sooner you start investing in your future together, the greater benefits you will get from the compounding interest. It may be difficult now when you’re young and busy, but your future self (and your spouse) will be very grateful that you took care of things now.
While these tips are just a small part of financial planning as a newlywed couple, they cover a large part of what to expect when you meet with your advisor. It’s always recommended that you have a professional on your team to bounce ideas off of, and now that you’re part of a couple that recommendation comes with twice the power. Like they say, the couple that plans together, stays together!