This article was originally on The New Savvy's Fine-Tuning your Marriage’s Financial Harmony.
Two people, each with their own separate financial lives, enter into one marriage. When you tie the knot with your partner, your finances come with you, and his finances come with him.
Those two financial lives can be explosive ingredients for full-blown stress in a marriage.
Conversely, financial considerations can just as easily strengthen a marriage. Think of the potential for financial harmony given a mutual understanding and respect of the value that each of you places on money.
Imagine the positive scenario of acceptance of each partner's equal rights and responsibilities over your finances. Here are 5 tips to get you on track to that financial harmony:
1. Share your dirty little secrets.
Are you a spendthrift who tends to make impulsive purchases? Or are you a frugal saver who is afraid to spend money? Do you still have outstanding student debt? Is your credit score in the basement? Get to know each other's financial experiences, habits and goals. Talk about your current assets, debts, salaries and expenses.
There's no need to worry if you discover some differences between your own and your partner's financial outlooks. Once you've learned more about each other, you can work on a setup that works for both of you.
2. Keep the balance.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that whoever makes more money in a relationship has the majority of power to call the shots. Ideally, however, income disparity should not translate to decision-making disparity.
Set aside time on a regular monthly basis to discuss both of your financial situations. Are you thinking of moving to a different part of the city to be closer to your workplace? Is your husband planning on purchasing a car?
Maintain a respectful and open communication. Share the decision-making. As Money Sense suggests, avoid making large financial commitments on your own without the consensus of your husband even if it's you with the higher income.
In cases of a huge difference in income, it is quite easy for the lower-earning partner to feel insignificant in terms of financial contribution to the household. This will really play out if the smaller paycheck is allocated only for the random smaller purchases within the relationship.
To avoid such situations, try earmarking the smaller paychecks for bigger goals.
These may include contributing to your children's education fund or your retirement fund. They could go towards paying for a long-awaited family vacation. This approach can fill emotional needs in terms of financial contribution while still doing one's part in addressing common financial goals. Keep in mind that a low income level does not hinder one partner from providing significantly in a financial sense.
3. Keep both joint and individual bank accounts.
It is a good idea to have a joint account to cover all household expenses, mortgage payments, education fees and the like.
In addition to any joint accounts, however, you and your husband may opt to keep individual accounts for personal expenses like clothing, fashion accessories and shoes, hobbies and gifts.
4. Account for your accounts.
Tally up the sum total of your assets and liabilities.
Assets include your savings accounts, checking accounts, real estate, collectibles and retirement funds, while your debts include credit card debts, student loans, personal loans, mortgages and car loans. Compute your net worth as a couple by subtracting your total liabilities (debts) from your total assets.
Remember to keep all of your financial documents secure. Share usernames and passwords with your husband in case of emergency. Review and update your lists of assets, debts and account details together on an annual basis to keep your records - and yourselves - up-to-date.
5. Set financial goals together.
You and your partner will not always be earners with the potential to earn a huge income. There will come a time when one of you may stop working temporarily or even permanently. For example, you may need to take maternity leave a few weeks before and after the delivery of a baby.
Random and unforeseen illnesses, disabilities and accidents may suddenly shut down your ability to continue working. When you and your husband reach the age of 60, you might want to retire and enjoy your accumulated wealth and some free time.
To prepare yourselves for any time during which you and/or your partner are no longer working, create a savings strategy together now.
Take the advice of Money Sense, which suggests that you need to retain an income of at least 70 per cent of your final annual income to maintain your current lifestyle during retirement.
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