This is a very good article for married couples. I came across this article on SmartMoney. The only difference is in the way my wife and I manage our finances. We don't separate our money/accounts. We have a merge or common account, which is transparent to both. We plan together and decide together. What about you? I hope you can get some helpful tips from this article.
Sharing a checking account may be one of the hardest things about sharing a marital bed. In fact, three in 10 Americans who've combined finances say they've deceived their spouses or partners when it comes to money matters, according to a 2010 survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education. Whether you're newlyweds or have been married for decades, there's always time to walk down the path to financial harmony. Here's what you'll need to do.
Decide what's common and what's separate. Decide whether to keep separate bank accounts, merge everything or a bit of both.
- Count your debts. Create a checklist of all the debt each spouse is entering the marriage with and determine whether that person will pay down his or her loans or if both spouses will chip in.
- Decide how to pay for household expenses. Some couples create a joint checking account, and each spouse contributes money to pay for household expenses like the mortgage, utilities and groceries.
Get serious about saving. Your expenses will only grow as you get older, which means you need to start saving now.
- Prepare for an emergency. Financial emergencies cause stress; stress causes discord. And while you can't avoid the emergency, you can avoid the stress. Put three to six months of living expenses in a savings account or money market account and keep it strictly off limits until there's a real emergency.
- Check in annually. Arrange an annual meeting with your spouse to review your financial health. List all assets, debts and sources of income and set long-term goals. If you're in your 40s, start talking about retirement goals, too.
- Make a plan. Use this SmartMoney calculator to set your investment goals, and check out this article in case an emergency strikes when you're cash-strapped.
Chip away at debt. Households with less debt have an easier time qualifying for a home mortgage and can also save more for their future.
- Have roles. Decide who will be responsible for keeping track of the bills and paying them. For unsecured debt, like credit cards, try to pay more than the monthly minimum and pay down the highest interest first.
- Save before spending. Create a strategy to save for one-time expenses, like a vacation or a new piece of furniture, without incurring debt.
- Figure out where you stand. Use this SmartMoney calculator to find out if you have too much debt and this calculator, which shows how much interest borrowers will pay by the time their credit card balance is paid off.
What not to do. The biggest mistake is to start arguing over finances, and that usually happens after one of these mistakes:
- Don't keep secrets. Spouses often overspend and hide it from their other half. It's only a downward spiral from there.
- Don't give up financial control. Just because one of you makes sure the bills are paid doesn't mean the other can live in la-la-land and spend without consequence. In this case, ignorance isn't bliss.
- Don't collect bad debt. Carefully consider getting a loan for a depreciating asset, like a car, because at some point you could owe more than it's worth. And stay away from credit card debt; balances can rack up quickly at very high interest rates.
I like the suggestion about chipping away debt. Everything starts with a plan. I am sure you will have one when you're done reading this. It's the only way to take control of your finances.
To your debt-free life,