The Financial Side of Getting Married


Imagine you just got married and you and your beloved are shopping for a house. You get a buyer's agent who wants to prequalify you for a loan so you have a better idea of what your budget will be, then—surprise! You find out your spouse's credit score is less-than-stellar, putting you at risk of not being able to get a mortgage. 

Nobody likes surprises like that, and nobody wants their new spouse to think less of them due to lack of credit responsibility or senseless spending. That's why it's important to have a conversation about money long before you walk down the aisle. 

Bring it All to the Table
When you have this conversation, be prepared to be honest. Also bring credit reports, pay stubs, tax returns, credit card statements, investment account statements, retirement account statements…anything that can give you both a clear picture of your future financial situation as a couple. Approach the conversation with the understanding that you aren't judging each other—and be sure you don't. If one of you is a saver and the other is a spender, the saver needs to be patient with the spender. On the other hand, the spender needs to understand that they may need to get a handle on their spending habits. If one of you is struggling to reach a goal, maybe you can stop the monthly manicures or poker nights. Speaking of goals… 

Set Goals for Your Future
Something else each of you should bring to the table is a list of what you believe your financial goals should be as a couple. Maybe one of you needs a better car, and you both want to buy a house. Or maybe one of you has debt that needs to be paid off before you can do that. This is also a good time to talk about what you want to do in retirement. Planning now means you can have the retirement you want. It's always a good idea to be as prepared as possible.

Talk About Monthly Expenses
Next, talk about your individual monthly expenses. If one of you doesn't watch much TV but the other one has all the movie channels, you may have to compromise and drop the movie channels unless you can afford that going forward. It's seemingly "little" things like this that can make a huge difference in your monthly outlay. 

Another discussion to have now is how you will deposit your income. Will it all go into one checking account, will you keep separate checking accounts, or both? Many couples have opposite spending habits, and if they are both working, they choose to keep separate accounts. (If you do this, be sure both accounts are in both names.) An important factor in this discussion will be who pays what going forward. Who will pay the mortgage payment? Or will you both contribute? If one of you makes more money than the other, that person may pay a bigger percentage of the monthly bills, too.

Other things to do once you tie the knot:

  • Make your new spouse the beneficiary of your retirement accounts and life insurance policy.
  • Add your spouse's name and their car to your auto insurance policy. You may be eligible for a multi-car discount!
  • Make sure your renters insurance policy is updated to cover all the new stuff you got for your wedding. Using a personal property calculator can help.
  • Filing tax returns will be different after you get married, so it's smart to recalculate your withholding.

During the excitement of planning a wedding, it's hard to remember to have discussions about how you will handle finances after you say "I do." No, you aren't marrying for money, but you do need to be on the same page to make things easier as you go.