Is marriage in your near future? Before you say “I do,” you need to make sure you’re financially prepared for this major milestone. We have outlined six financial steps you and your partner need to take before walking down the aisle.
Open the Lines of Communication
Have you already had the big “money talk”? Financial discussions now can prevent many arguments and disruptions in the future. During your initial “money talk,” we suggest swapping and analyzing credit reports. You can obtain a free credit report each year from AnnualCreditReport.com. And remember, one talk isn’t enough. Schedule regular discussions about your financial goals, priorities and action plans.
Create a New Budget
How will marriage impact your monthly budget? Once your goals and priorities have been established, you need to create a budget that takes all income and debts into account. You also need to determine how to pay bills and through which bank accounts. Will you have a joint account, separate accounts, or a mix? Which bank accounts will be designated for which types of purchases?
Pay Down High Interest Debt
Debt you have acquired yourself doesn’t transfer to a spouse upon marriage. In order to start your marriage off on the best financial foot, focus on paying down or paying off your high interest debt first. Doing so will allow you and your partner to reach savings goals faster and with less friction.
Plan Childcare Costs
If you plan to have children or already have children, you need to decide how child rearing costs will be handled, from medical bills to child care to college tuition. A long-term savings plan can be crucial to ensuring the entire family’s financial security. You may also want to look into a 529 Plan to cover future college costs.
Establish Retirement Accounts
It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. In fact, the earlier the better. If your employer offers a 401(k) package, be sure to enroll and take advantage of the full match. IRAs are also great options, especially for those who don’t have access to a 401(k).
Consider Legal Protection
Prenuptial agreements, or prenups, are legal contracts some couples enter into before marriage. While the content varies, financial matters are commonly spelled out in the event of a divorce. If you, your partner or both possess significant wealth or debts, it’s wise to have a written agreement. Most young couples that haven’t acquired significant wealth don’t need a prenup and are better off saving the money. A prenup can be important for second marriages when one person wants to make sure the bulk of his or her estate goes to children from an earlier marriage.