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Handling Your Finances After Marriage

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My husband and I like to say that we spent our first two years of marriage basically dating while living under the same roof.

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My husband and I like to say that we spent our first two years of marriage basically dating while living under the same roof. Yes, we were husband and wife, and had a nifty little certificate to show for it. But as far as life’s big responsibilities went — buying a house, having kids — well, we just weren’t ready. That said, we did put some thought into our finances early on to make sure we were on the same page. We also opened a joint savings account to start putting money toward the things we definitely weren’t ready for but knew we wanted down the line.
While there’s nothing wrong with kicking back and enjoying the newlywed phase, there are a few money moves you ought to make at the start of your marriage:
Decide on Your Financial Goals
Maybe owning a home is important to you. Or maybe it isn’t, and that’s okay. The key, however, is to figure out where you see yourselves long-term and how much money you’ll need to get there. If, for example, there’s a certain neighborhood you both want to live in where the cost of a house averages $300,000, you can establish a savings goal to afford a down payment in five years. Another thing to consider is children. Kids cost money, so if you’re interested in having them, the sooner you start saving, the better.
Establish an Emergency Fund
You never know when you might lose a job, wreck your car or get injured and wind up with a pile of medical bills in the process. It’s always a good idea to have a safety net, and you should aim to put aside enough money to cover six months of living expenses. You may have to build that fund slowly, but you should make it an early priority.
Create a Budget
One of the best moves you can make early on in your marriage is establishing a budget and sticking to it. Figure out how much money you need to cover your usual bills, add in a cushion for unexpected expenses and leave some wiggle room for travel and entertainment — because this is, after all, the time to enjoy each other’s company and experience new things together. Just be sure to also leave yourselves enough money to set up your emergency fund and start saving up for your goals.
Get Your Banking in Order
Perhaps it makes sense for you and your spouse to keep separate bank accounts. Or maybe a joint account will serve you better. Take some time to explore your options and figure out what’s most beneficial.
Make a Plan to Pay Off Debt
The last thing you want as a married couple is a wad of debt hanging over your head. Perhaps you’re still paying off your wedding, or one of you has leftover student loans. The sooner you start chipping away at that balance, the sooner you’ll be able to start saving for your future goals.
Create a Will
If you don’t already have a will in place, now’s the time to take action. Even if you don’t have many assets, it’s still important to have a document in place that dictates where those assets will go in the event of your untimely demise.
Remember, being financially responsible doesn’t have to detract from what should otherwise be a fun, carefree year of getting to know each other and enjoying one another’s company. The sooner you get on the right track, the less financial stress you’ll have down the line — and that’s important for any marriage, regardless of what stage you’re in.

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