Traditionally, June marks the start of peak wedding season, which runs through the early fall. All across the country, happy couples are discussing seating charts, selecting a song for their first dance, and planning their honeymoons. There is one conversation, however, that they cannot afford to forget: how will they manage their finances once they become married. The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) has tips to make sure money issues don’t get in the way of happily ever after.
Research from the American Institute of CPAs found that 88% of adults 25 to 34 who are married or living with a partner say that financial decisions are a source of tension in their relationship. If one partner watches every penny and the other doesn’t worry about costs, there are likely to be difficult moments ahead. That said, by sitting down and having a conversation with your significant other about their approach to saving and spending and how they feel about money, you’ll gain important insight into their perspective. Once both of you understand each other’s financial fears and motivations, you’ll be able to develop an approach to money decisions that is a compromise.
Together or Separate?
Before tying the knot, couples should discuss how extensively they intend to commingle their finances. One option is to fully combine checking and savings accounts, share credit cards, and make all payments out of joint accounts. The other option is to retain some financial independence, perhaps by having some separate accounts but a joint savings account or a family credit card you share. This method will require ground rules on how you’ll handle household costs, such as rent, insurance, and utilities.
Either way, couples need to establish an understanding for what purchases should be discussed in advance. If one person in a relationship is pinching pennies to save as much as possible while the other is splurging on discretionary purchases, it is bound to cause problems. By setting price limits on expenditures, you’ll gain an opportunity to talk through major purchases before they are brought into the home. A similar strategy is to allow each of you a certain amount of money each month to spend as you see fit, no questions asked, as long as no one goes over their monthly budget.
Decide on Roles
In many instances, it makes sense to establish clear cut divisions of labor so it’s understood who is expected to handle which financial tasks. For many couples, one person often takes on the role of primary bookkeeper to ensure all bills get paid on time and accounts don’t become overdrawn. However, it is absolutely essential that the nonbookkeeping partner is kept informed of what’s going on. Consider a monthly or quarterly money date where you review the budget to see what went well and what went wrong, and to check if you need to tweak your numbers. This is also a great time to discuss any upcoming big-ticket expenses, such as vacations, holidays, or home repairs that may be on the horizon.
CPAs Are Here to Help
The American Institute of CPAs’ 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website has financial tips for couples to follow as "you and I" becomes "we. " And as you decide upon a financial strategy, your local CPA can help you develop a financial plan that will set you on a path of prosperity. Turn to him or her with your financial questions. To find a CPA in your area or for more financial tips, visit www.picpa.org/moneyandlife.