In the United States, June marks the start of a peak wedding season that runs through the early fall. All across the country happy couples are discussing their seating charts, selecting a song for their first dance, and planning their honeymoons. But there is one conversation that they cannot afford to forget – how they will manage their finances once they become legally married. As the big day approaches, the Oregon Society of CPAs has tips to make sure money issues don’t get in the way of happily ever after.
Check your financial compatibility
Research from the American Institute of CPAs found that 88 percent of adults 25-34 who are married or living with a partner said 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 some difficult decisions 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. And once you both 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 your checking and savings accounts, share credit cards and make all payments out of joint accounts. The other option is to retain some financial independence, and have some separate accounts, but a joint savings account or perhaps a family credit card you both share along with ground rules on how you’ll handle household costs like rent, insurance and utilities.
Either way, couples need to establish ground rules 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 a price limit beforehand, it allows an opportunity to talk major purchases through 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. In many couples, one person will take 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 non-bookkeeping 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, what went wrong and see if you need to tweak your numbers. This is also a perfect opportunity 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.
Money Management is a regular column on personal finance prepared and distributed by certified public accountants, produced in cooperation with the Oregon Society of CPAs (www.orcpa.org) and the American Institute of CPAs (www.aicpa.org). Copyright 2019 The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.