5 Money Moves to Make the Moment You Decide to Get Married

By Emily Guy Birken on 18 July 2016 0 comments

There is nothing more romantic than the giddy days after you ask your sweetheart to marry you. But now is also the perfect time to start preparing for one of the most important aspects of a successful marriage: money.

Before you groan that bringing money into the marriage equation is going to be the death of romance, remember that money problems are cited as one of the top reasons for divorce, just behind infidelity and communication issues. If promising fidelity and good communication aren't romance-killers, then preparing financially shouldn't be one, either. (See also: 8 Signs You're Committing Financial Infidelity)

Here are the top five money moves you and your betrothed should make the moment you decide to get married:

1. Share Your Money Backgrounds

Just as you and your fiancé should know about each other's health, family, romantic, and work backgrounds, it's important that you share financial backgrounds with each other. This starts with the obvious, such as outstanding debts and current assets. It's not possible to move forward financially as a couple if you don't already know where you are — and keeping financial secrets from each other is an emotionally dangerous way to begin a marriage.

But understanding each other's money background also includes knowing how you each think and feel about money. The way you view money is generally unconscious and tied to how you feel about everything from relationships to success. It's a good idea to recognize the way you and your spouse-to-be differ in those unconscious beliefs. In particular, start by answering the following questions, suggested by Terri Orbuch, marriage and family therapist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great:

  • How did your parents deal with money growing up?
     
  • What did money mean to you (and your parents) when you were growing up?
     
  • How have you dealt with money in previous relationships?

Your answers can both illuminate attitudes you may not realize you carried, and help you understand where to expect (and prepare for) potential financial friction in your marriage.

2. Start a Wedding Fund

A wedding is a joyous event, but the finances can create some complications. This dynamic can get even more pronounced when the extended family is paying for some portion of the wedding.

To minimize this friction, create a wedding fund, and transfer money to it regularly.

This will help you create the financial freedom necessary to say no to those who attach strings to wedding money.

In addition, it's easier to keep a saving habit than it is to start one. So once you're home from the honeymoon, you can just change the name of your wedding fund to your house fund (or start sending the money to your retirement accounts) and keep the regular saving habit in place.

3. Set Financial Ground Rules

There are few couples in the world who aren't driven a little crazy by each other's financial habits. For instance, my husband tends to splurge on himself with large purchases about once or twice a year, whereas I tend to make smaller purchases for myself two to three times a month. Even though he is spending several hundred dollars on a video game system and I am spending $15 here and $20 there on books or manicures, the amount we each spend is pretty equal. But when we first got married, each one of us thought the other was being frivolous with money.

The thing is, neither one of us was wrong (even though we each took turns trying to prove the other one was completely misguided, which worked about as well as you could expect). We just had different expectations for fun money.

What helped was for us to set up financial ground rules. We each have a certain amount of splurge money that is ours alone. As long as we are spending from that splurge money and not dipping into shared funds, then we can splurge on whatever we like.

Financial ground rules allow you to both feel comfortable within the framework of your finances. You might also set rules on spending thresholds over which you have to discuss issues before spending the money, or how you might use joint accounts.

4. Think About Worst-Case Scenarios

Marriage is a common time for people to acquire or update their life insurance and wills. These are important to have in place in order to protect yourself and your spouse in case life takes a turn you don't expect. Whether you don't yet have life insurance or a will, or you need to change your beneficiary to your spouse. Taking the time to make sure these documents are thoroughly completed, updated, and signed can give you both some peace of mind.

But there are other scenarios you might want to prepare for. Getting adequate renter's or homeowner's insurance is always a great idea. It's also worth talking with your spouse-to-be about a prenuptial agreement. Unless you're both hollering "We want prenup!" such conversations can be pretty difficult to broach. But the issues you would hammer out in a prenuptial are important to discuss before you get married, even if you are not couching them in terms of what would happen if you divorce. According to Mandi Woodruff, writing for Business Insider, there are typically five pillars to every prenuptial:

"How to handle the income each partner makes before marriage, how to handle your prior assets (businesses, homes, etc.) and liabilities (such as student loans), division of property acquired during the marriage, your retirement plans, and how you'll handle spousal support."

Discussing these issues in terms of both an estate plan and a prenuptial agreement is an important part of planning the financial side of your marriage together.

5. Adopt a Team Mentality

One of the best ways to build a strong financial foundation for your marriage is to adopt a team mentality for your money. It can be very easy to see money as "yours" and "mine," particularly if you have each been out on your own for a while. But keeping your money separate in your mind can be the first step toward bean counting and money fights. This is especially true if you have varying income levels or different money priorities.

Getting on the same team financially means seeing money as something you share — which means that you also share your decisions about money.

There are many ways to adopt a team mentality, from mingling all funds into a joint checking account to setting up a yours-mine-and-ours system. But the important thing is to recognize that you are in the same financial boat and to treat the majority of your money as shared.

Marriage and money go hand-in-hand, and taking the time before you wed to discuss finance is an investment in your long and happy married life.

What money moves did you make to prepare for marriage?

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