Saying "I Do" to a Joint Financial Life

If there are wedding bells in your future, an important step is to figure out how to marry your financial lives together.  There are four phases of this process, and getting it all right is a huge step in creating a smooth and rewarding financial life.

Before You Get Married

In my opinion, one important part of blending your financial lives happens before you get married.  Unfortunately, most couples don’t discuss finances before they decide to marry.  Once you’re engaged, it is easy to gloss over tough parts of money conversations.  Everything is glowy and good when you’re engaged!  Don’t let those lovey emotions prevent you from having serious discussions about your current financial status, how you got there, and where you hope to go in the future.  It’s actually easier to have these talks before you marry, for two reasons.  First, even if it is hard, sharing earlier is less uncomfortable than sharing later, when it could seem like you were trying to hide things.  Second, you’re both feeling happy and optimistic about the future.  If you’re in this stage of a relationship, talk money now!

The Big Day

The wedding itself can have a big impact on the first few years of your married finances.  First, the habits you develop during wedding planning will impact your decision-making and money sharing in the following years.  Second, spending a lot on a wedding will make it harder to achieve other financial goals, such as paying off debt, building up savings, or making large purchases.

Integrating Your Financial Lives

Once you are married, you will need to take some time to integrate (most) of your finances.  Whether you keep accounts separate, or join them, you must still be working within the same financial plan.  It might take some time, but stick with it and make it a priority.  You’re building a life together, and finances are an important part of it.

Working Together

Managing your money is a lifelong process.  Continue to make the effort to talk about money regularly.  Share your fears, goals, and dreams.  You can’t expect your spouse to help you achieve your goals if you don’t share those goals!  And spouses can be great at attacking financial fears.

Joining financial lives isn’t always easy, but the results are well worth the effort.  Take the time and face the tough topics, and you’ll have better finances AND a better marriage.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • MMMM

    Step three wasn’t so bad. The spouse and I both are thrifty, but I did have to foot the bill for the wedding and pay off my spouses student loans with the bank roll I saved up while AD. That didn’t really matter because we became we. My spouses checking account became the joint account and all income went into that, and all expenses came out of that.

    We decided to have separate CC’s, but for a reason other than yours: we wanted to each have an equal amount of mad money each month, money we could spend on anything and not have to ask or feel guilty about, and being equal because we are a team. So we set up our credit cards and special savings accounts to accomplish this, it was a pain to get started, but it’s kept us from frivolous spending, and we’ve had zero money fights in our nine year and counting relationship.

    Step four is a doozy though.

    My spouse still has many years on contract, and many beyond that before my spouse can collect a pension, but it’s not something that we can count on for retirement as we’re not sure how we will feel about service a when the time comes, or if we’ll even be kept for the whole contract. So we save heavily, living on E3 pay (or E4 depending on if you count the value of the EITC or not), and plan on getting out. I hope we are able to stay a military family for the full 20, but that’s up to the service and that adds a great deal of uncertainty to step four.