Planning matters

Marriage and Money

June is a popular month for weddings and exactly thirty-six years ago today, my husband and I were standing at the altar lovingly exchanging our wedding vows. However, none of those vows included anything about handling money together. We were left to our own devices to figure that out. Here are some great tips from our team on how to navigate the world of marriage and money.

Cyndi and her husband on their wedding day.

As an aspiring financial professional, my thirst for financial knowledge was insatiable.  One of the best things that my husband and I did during our first year of marriage was to take a personal finance class together.  After each class, we’d go home and discuss what we had learned that night and how we would handle that in our household.  At the end, we received a session and beginning financial plan with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.  I still have this document and it means the world to me.  It was a plan that included being financially prepared to have 2 children, how to save for their college, how we would save for retirement and more. Marriage can be a lot smoother with a financial plan in place.

It turns out that this is a hot topic!  I asked our Johnson Bixby team members for their best tips as well and here are the responses:

Zach Reuter, CFP®:   We’ve found that consistently discussing larger purchases in the context of our overall budget has built trust and accountability across the financial part of our relationship.  Agreeing on an initial purchase amount before it happens, especially if you share a joint account, goes a long way. For example, maybe this amount could be $100, $250, $500 or more depending on where your finances are at.

Jennifer Morris: Share your bigger picture and what you want to save for together.  For example, if you wanted to buy a boat for some family fun, help each other do research to save money and get the best value for the money you spend.

Kim Baker, CFP®:  Discuss how much of your cash flow to combine and how much to keep separate. A useful strategy that I’ve recommended for many years is to use a combination of joint accounts for joint spending goals and individual accounts for personal spending needs and desires. In graphic form, cash flow would look like this:

A joint checking works well for regular monthly household expenses. A joint savings can accumulate funds for planned expenses (vacations, home repairs, car replacement, etc.). 

The really great thing about this idea is the concept of maintaining individual checking and/or savings accounts. That way, each person still has their own autonomous money that they can spend however they want – no more judgement about someone’s expensive clothing tastes or the acquisition of yet another tool for the woodshop!

Haley Smart:  Participate and communicate. Both parties should be a part of budgeting, bill pay and debt repayment and communicate expectations concerning those tasks.

Patricia Spies, CFP®:  Having regular check-ins on how our saving/spending is going has been really beneficial for us.  Once a month we fill out our spreadsheet that tracks both spending, saving and income. It helps us stay focused on keeping expenses under control but also motivates us to save more. We make sure to save both for the long term and the inevitable short-term expenses that come with home ownership and starting a family.

Lana Alvarez:  I learned not to make it impossible for my spouse to purchase a gift and give it to me without me already being aware of the transaction beforehand.   I also learned not to be concerned about the small things – if he buys a brand that is more expensive than I would have bought, chalk up the difference as gratitude he did the shopping and enjoy the purchase and your time together.  Also, since one of us is a spender and one of us is more of a saver, it has helped us to track our expenses and have a visual.  Having that visual is a great tool to help us work together on understanding what is working well and what needs to be improved upon.

Heidi Johnson Bixby, CFP®:  As a couple, sometimes opposites attract and that can be true if one of you is a spender and one is a saver. It’s important to set a foundation where both of your individual styles are honored and needs are met. This can create strength in the partnership. An example would be setting a monthly budget ensuring there is enough spending money for enjoying today, as well as making retirement contributions for your future – a wonderful combination!

Rachel GorrettaMy tip is to keep the lines of communication open and be willing to shift responsibilities as your life changes. The way you are right now isn’t always how it’s going to be. For example, when my husband and I were first married (18 years in October!) I took on the responsibility of the bill paying, budgeting, fiscal responsibility etc. for our household. Then, as our financial situation shifted (job changes, raises!) our family grew (hello parenthood and orthodontic treatments!) , I ended up feeling like I was taking on more than my fair share of things. But it was easier because I had always done it but really my husband is more than capable (and willing). So, keep the lines of communication open, delegate tasks, and don’t be afraid to shift responsibilities from one partner to another.