5 Ways Newlyweds Screw Up Money Management

by Chris Birk on 16 September 2011 5 comments
Photo: MzPromise

My fiance and I are in the waning days of what seems like the longest engagement in relationship history.

Considering that we're paying for our own wedding, my fiance and I have talked a lot about finances the last two years. In fact, looking back on the process, that constant communication is actually one of the best things to come from footing the bill ourselves. We've had no choice but to make tough choices and talk honestly about where we were, where we are, and where we're heading financially.

Turns out not every couple is so lucky. Academics might always debate whether money is really the leading driver of divorces, but there's no doubt it plays a part, if not a starring role, in many separations and splits each year.

I'm still pulling for the fairytale ending, but to be sure, I started poking around into some of the common mistakes newlyweds make when it comes to money. Here's a look at five of the big ones. (See also: How to Be Happy and Married: 24 Tips From a 24-Year-Old Marriage)

1. Not Talking Money With Your Spouse

Avoiding the topic altogether is a sure fire way to fail in post-nuptial finances. Discuss your financial goals, burdens, and budget ideas well before you head down the aisle, or if not, as soon as possible post-honeymoon. If you’re coming into the marriage with a lot of debt, whether from student loans or credit cards, you at least need to be upfront about it with your partner. This applies before and during the marriage as new issues emerge.

2. Giving One Person All the Power

When you have to decide who will physically pay the bills, file the taxes, watch your investments and accounts, and make sure you stay on budget, it’s wise to not put all these eggs in one partner’s basket. While one person can take primary responsibility for such tasks, the other spouse should always maintain involvement and awareness when it comes to money matters. In case something happens to you or your spouse, you should both be aware of your account information, passwords, bill due dates, and any other necessary financial information.

3. Not Creating a Budget or Joint Financial Plan

It’s not easy to merge two incomes, spending habits, and saving habits into one household, so it’s essential to draft a basic budget plan early in your marriage — or even before if possible. Start with a basic budget worksheet, in which you detail your income; essential expenses such as rent or a house payment, food, and insurance; and flexible expenses. Track your spending as a couple for several months and revisit the budget, tweaking if necessary to make sure it works in practice

4. Fighting Over Small Money Matters

Picking your battles can be one of the toughest things to do in any relationship, but when it comes to money in a new marriage, it is critical to keep you both sane and from going broke. There will be plenty of ironing out to do as you merge your pocketbooks, but arguing with your spouse because they spent 50 cents extra on a box of brand-name popsicles won’t make the process easy for either of you.

5. Not Preparing for Emergencies

There’s no way you can mentally, physically, and fiscally prepare for every possible scenario to confront you as a married couple, but saving some dollars for a rainy day is always helpful. This may be hard to do as you’re paying off a wedding or any other pre-marriage debt you may have; but starting small and then building up as you can, making sure saving is a routine part of your marriage will be incredibly helpful in the long term.

This list is by no means exhaustive, so please feel free to share your advice and experience below.

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Guest's picture
Guest

When our son and daughter-in-law were married in 2005, we gave them a nice check and the book by Elizabeth Warren, All Your Worth. They took it to heart and manage their money according to her advice. It has paid off for them in spades!

Guest's picture
Yazmin

Great tips! I agree that both partners must be involved and in the know of what is going on with their finances, but another mistake that is made my families is to have the less financially-savvy member take charge of the money. This causes couples to lose money in the long run (think missed investment opportunities).

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BillDeel

My wife and I did this as soon as we were married in July (I took the lead, but she provided plenty of input). Most importantly, creating a financial plan has brought us much closer together. We are planning for long term goals, and are keeping each other in check with spending. All of our pay goes into one joint account, and we have a detailed list of all necessary bills that we pay. We each get $50 a week for personal spending money that can be used for anything. We have budgeted until the end of next year, and it looks like we'll be able to pay off $40,000 in student loans by the summer.

Guest's picture

For anyone looking to get married or into a committed relationship, these tips are key. I even agree that anyone married should take a look at these money management mistakes and see if they are making them.

I've heard of couples being together for over 20 years, one spouse suddenly dies (the one with all the "power") and the other spouse is left clueless. It's a sad place to be. Communication is very important, and splitting the money responsibility helps a ton. Not only to relieve the burden but to help each other reach the same goals.

Great article, thanks for sharing

Guest's picture

If a newly married couple is serious about retiring together someday this is probably the most important article they can read. No one person should have all the financial data it is a team effort and growing old together means understanding each other inside and out, that means the bank accounts as well.