We met in 2006 as college sweethearts and have been silly in love since. Not too long after, we started marriage prep classes, which covered one hour of finances. It was a start to tackling our money issues, but nothing prepared us for what we had to face.
I knew the size of his ring better than I did his credit score.
Three small kids and bananas-high student loans later, we learned a lot and have come a long way to reconcile different approaches and attitudes towards money.
Here are a few tips for marital money bliss so you both can be on the same page with your finances.
Get these Dos and Don’ts right and you can continue to live happily ever after.
5 financial tasks to do when you get married
1. Use Mint to budget and Personal Capital to track net worth
Have you ever tried to pull in all your accounts for the first time and track your new cash flow?
We use Mint and it’s a FREE app great for helping us with this. We use it to budget on a day-to-day basis. It connects all your accounts so you can view all your household spending in one month on a screen.
We also use Personal Capital to track our goals and it’s also FREE. It pulls in numbers quickly and easily so you can see your net worth. If anybody wonders, “How much more until we are net worth zero?” You can login and see exactly what that number is. If you sign up for it through my link, you get a $20 bonus, and I get a $20 bonus, too.
2. Get a copy of his credit report every year
Do you know for sure whether your DrSpouse took out any private student loans for medical school? Does he know how many credit cards you have?
Your credit report will tell you. Get a copy of both your credit report for FREE each year.
Even if you already read it once, get it every year to stay on top of discrepancies.
3. Update your beneficiaries and make sure that it lists each other
Before you guys got married, maybe your beneficiary was listed as your parents. Now you should list each other, or if you have established a trust, list that.
4. Appoint yourself as financial Power of Authority
Chances are, by the time your DrSpouse gets home from work it’s too late to do a lot of business. Or he may be asleep during the day to work nights. Most brokerage houses like Vanguard are closed. Scheduling him to appear at real estate closings is a huge hassle.
Make it easy on both of you and become your DrSpouse’s financial Power of Authority.
State laws vary but in general, you must fill out a form and get it notarized. Some banks and brokerage firms have their own forms, so you may be filling out and notorizing several forms.
5. Talk about your “what” and “why”
Share your “what” and your “why” on what you plan to do with money.
If it’s to take a sabbatical or mini-retirement while you’re young, work on being more aggressive with your savings rate. If you want to take in or support your parents or in-laws, consider what kind of house you want to live in or how close you want to live to them.
Whatever it is, it’s not too early to talk about it.
5 things you should not do when you get married
1. Do not co-sign
If your credit score is too low and the bank will only give you a loan if one of you co-signs, as a rule of thumb — don’t. Co-signing will likely put you on the hook in case of one if you dies or becomes disabled.
Instead, shop around to see if other banks would loan to you without co-signing.
If co-signing becomes absolutely necessary, get extra term life insurance to make sure neither of you have to financially suffer if the worse happens.
2. Do not combine student loans jointly
Like toothbrushes, keeping his and her student loan debt separate is better.
There are no advantages to combining student loans, only disadvantages — like being responsible for paying back student loans in case of one of your early death or disability.
3. Do not keep any accounts secret
Undisclosed accounts and their continued use can tear even the most devoted couples apart.
Make sure you guys are aware and have access to all of your accounts. You can have separate accounts, but they can’t be secret.
4. Do not shame each other
There are entire finance counseling books and courses on this entire subject so I’ll keep it super brief.
Nothing will shut your DrSpouse down faster than shaming him over mistakes made while handling money. Instead, treating him with grace and compassion opens the dialogue to work towards a solution.
5. Never ever go a month without talking about money
The couple who has a “money date” at least monthly (a term I learned from Elle of Couple Money) has a much higher chance of meeting their financial goals.
It doesn’t have to be painful or turn into an argument. It can just simply be, “This was our budget, this was our actual spending, and this is our progress towards our goals.”
Spending time in Personal Capital or Mint by yourself and then sending him screenshots works, too.