Marriage and Money: How to Merge Your Finances
Banking is not a romantic topic but it is something that newlyweds need to address
A lot of consideration goes into a wedding – the ceremony, reception, dresses and tuxedos are talked about at length. Newlywed lifestyles are also discussed, as young brides and grooms figure out living arrangements and begin to talk about building a family.
If you are planning on marriage or have recently tied the knot, congratulations. You and your spouse will have many things to discuss, and perhaps the most important topic will be personal finance. Two lives are coming together, and so are two financial profiles.
While personal finance, particularly debt, might be an uncomfortable topic, it is an important one. Government statistics show that four in ten marriages result in a divorce, and a recent study shows that one-in-five Canadians say their marriage problems are due to finances.
Smart finance will not only benefit your bank account, it may also play a large roll in a happy marriage.
As you walk from the aisle into the rest of your life, keep these tips in mind:
Don’t commit financial infidelity
Your marriage vows included openness and honesty, and that should apply to your finances too. Sit down with your partner and discuss your finances, warts and all. You need to know exactly where you stand. Figure out your net worth as a couple, considering all assets and debts. Discuss credit history. Having an accurate assessment of your combined finances will give you a solid foundation upon which you can build your future. Keeping secrets will cause cracks in this foundation and result in problems down the road.
Figure out your bank accounts
Many financial experts recommend opening a joint chequing account to handle daily expenses and bills. If you still value some measure of financial individuality, both partners could maintain savings accounts (which will allow for some independence when needing to buy a birthday gift, for example). Beyond the convenience of having a joint chequing account, you will also save yourself a lot of legal difficulties if the worst should occur and a spouse passes away – the bank may freeze their account and it could take time to gain access.
Set common goals
Before marriage, you may have considered yourself a savvy financial planner and did your best to deliver on the budgetary goals that you laid out for yourself. But you’re now part of a team, and if your financial targets do not line up with your partner’s, you could be in for some diverse opinions on how to save or spend your resources. Have a frank and open discussion of where you want to be in the short term and the long term. Are you saving for a down-payment? Are you building emergency funds? Should you be saving for your children’s education? Establish a set of goals and work together to achieve them.
Agree on a budget
Once you and your spouse have agreed on a mutual destination, you need to craft a road map to get there. A well-planned budget will help you achieve your goals and keep you out of financial trouble. Take a look at each partner’s spending habits and see what could be adjusted. You may not see entirely eye-to-eye at first, but open discussions are the only way you will reach an agreement that will work. Once you’ve set a budget, make sure you stick to it. Try using Consolidated Credit’s free budgeting app for iPhone to help you keep track of your spending.
For more information about personal finance, we have an entire section of our website dedicated to it. And, if you have any other questions or are struggling with debt, you can give us a call at or fill out a free Debt and Budget Analysis online.