Marriage and finances

Marriage is an exciting milestone. As you prepare for the big day, it’s important to talk to your future spouse about how you plan to manage your finances together.

Approaching the conversation doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, discussing your needs and financial goals with an Ameriprise financial advisor can help you and your future spouse get on the same page with your finances. 

These tips can get you started on the right path:

Have a “money talk” 

Set up time to discuss finances with your partner. Honest financial conversations can help you avoid misunderstandings now and down the road. This conversation checklist can help you get started:

  • Start discussions sooner. Set aside time for regular conversations to help you stay on the same page financially as your priorities and life circumstances evolve. Talk about family finances before you get married and before a major life event occurs, such as buying a new house or having a child. Include how you will continue to communicate about your finances along the way. 
  • Created shared goals and priorities. Talk about your vision of the future. What’s important to you now, and what do you want to achieve in 5 - 10 years? What are your goals for retirement? Set an agenda to help stay focused. Be realistic about what you can cover in each session, and plan for complex topics to take a few meetings.
  • Keep communication open. Speak up, be frank, stay open-minded and keep past conflicts out of the talks. 
  • Talk less, listen more. Boost your chances for a productive conversation by actively listening to one another, seeking to understand and respectfully acknowledging each other’s points of view.
  • Discuss financial mistakes openly. If either of you have made financial mistakes in the past, talk about it openly with your partner but without pointing the finger.
  • Work with an advisor. An Ameriprise financial advisor can help guide money conversations and provide guidance for the long term. They’ll take the time to understand what’s truly important to you and your spouse and provide personalized advice based on your goals and needs as a couple. Learn more about working with an Ameriprise financial advisor.

"Many of our conversational barriers are self-imposed because kicking off a talk might seem intimidating. If you approach it in the right way, the talk can turn into a positive, constructive experience."

Marcy Keckler, CRPC®, CFP®, vice president, Financial Advice Strategy at Ameriprise Financial.

Create a budget

It seems obvious, but the importance of this step is often overlooked. A budget can help you understand your current spending patterns and align your day-to-day habits with your long-term financial priorities and values.  

Some couples designate one spouse to manage the budget, while others may take turns keeping records and paying the bills. Whatever your approach, ensure you’re both aligned and keep your records somewhere you both can easily locate important documents, when needed. 

Learn more about how an Ameriprise financial advisor can help you achieve your long- and short-term financial goals.

Manage debt 

Managing debt can be a stressful process. When getting married, one spouse may have more debt than the other, or you both may have debt from credit cards, student loans, etc. The first step to tackle debt is to create a plan. Based on your budget, decide how much money you have available to pay down your debts each month. For student loans, pick the most feasible repayment option. 

It’s important to be upfront when managing debt and to have a safe space to discuss solutions. An Ameriprise advisor will help factor debt management into your financial strategy.

Decide on bank accounts: joint, separate or mixed

Some couples merge their bank accounts, others keep them separate and some have a mixture of both. Maintaining a joint account can simplify record keeping and lower maintenance fees. However, it’s sometimes more difficult to keep track of your money in a joint account when two individuals are actively using it. 

Another option may be to set up a combination of joint accounts for shared household expenses and separate accounts for personal spending. Whichever decision you make as a couple, be sure to discuss it as early as possible in the marriage.
 

Pros of Joint Bank Accounts Cons of Joint Bank Accounts
  • Easier record keeping and lower maintenance fees.
  • Clear view of where money is spent and where there may be opportunities for savings.
  • More difficult to keep track of how much money is in joint account when two individuals have access to it.
  • Hard to keep spending on surprises or gifts a secret.

 

Pros of Separate Bank Accounts Cons of Separate Bank Accounts
  • Allow each spouse to have an individual degree of freedom over their finances.
  • Both spouses must be responsible within their accounts and budgets.
  • Less visibility into spouse’s accounts and spending habits.
  • Difficult access to funds in times of emergency unless paperwork is filed, in advance.

Review your insurance options

You and your spouse may also want to discuss insurance coverage plans. Understand the different types of insurance available and decide together which are the best for your family. 

  • Health insurance. If each of you has separate health insurance coverage, do a cost and benefit analysis for both plans. Which is better — the family plan or two single plans? Which plan has a higher deductible and higher copayments? Which offers the most benefits?
  • Auto and home insurance. Consider consolidating your auto insurance policies along with your homeowners or renters’ insurance with one company. Many companies will give you a discount if you insure more than one car with them. If one of you has a poor driving record, however, make sure changing companies won’t mean paying a higher premium.
  • Life insurance/Disability Income Insurance. It’s always advisable to be prepared for an unforeseeable situation such as an illness, disability or a death. An Ameriprise advisor can help you determine the right type and amount of coverage to help protect and secure your family’s financial future. 

Consider whether you want to purchase a home

Buying a home is a long-term investment and often one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make in a marriage. Before you purchase a home, review financial situation carefully, including these actions:

  • Check your credit score
  • Save for a down payment
  • Get pre-qualified for a mortgage loan

Once all the necessary items are in order, decide together where you want to live and the must-haves in a home. Being on the same page with your spouse about these details will make your house hunting easier.

Prepare a will

Consider preparing a will early in your marriage, especially if you and your spouse already have children or plan to have kids at some point in your marriage. 

A will allows you to specify who will care for your minor children and where your assets will go to in the event of your passing. Even if your estate is modest or you are young, having a legally valid and up-to-date will can provide peace of mind for you, your family and loved ones.  

Special family considerations

Do you or your spouse have children from another relationship? Has your spouse been previously married? If so, it’s important to determine how existing obligations — like payments for child or spousal support, for example — will impact your budget. Additionally, it may also affect where you decide to buy a home, determine beneficiaries in a will, and inform the level and type of insurance you select. 

We can help you plan for your future

When you get married, your lives change. So does your financial situation. Careful planning and communication with your spouse can help you achieve long-term financial success. Talk with an Ameriprise financial advisor to help you start your marriage on the right financial foot, together. 
 

A financial advisor can help guide you and your spouse toward short- and long-term financial goals.

Or, request an appointment online to speak with an advisor.

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