This is the second of two posts on newlywed finances.
Yesterday we talked about having your first big financial talk, managing money, and setting a budget. Today, we’re going to look at a more long-term approach to dealing with finances as a married couple.
Before you ever get married or move in together, you and your partner should have a serious discussion about your financial goals as well as the implications of your non-financial plans and goals. Remember to include any goals you have individually as well as the ones you have together. You may find it helpful to meet with a financial planner or complete financial premarital counseling. Among other things, consider:
- Lifestyle: Do you plan to live a very frugal life, banking 50% or more of your combined income? Or does one of you imagine life on the posh side of town while the other is fine in your current 1-bedroom apartment? Is your income enough to support the lifestyle you dream of? If not, will you increase your income or compromise on some of your dreams?
- Education: Will either of you want to go back to school at some point during your marriage? Will that person work part time, or quit work altogether? Will you save for the schooling before you begin, or count on loans to see you through?
- Housing: If one or both of you own homes currently, will you keep them? Add each other to the mortgage? If you plan to buy together down the road, when will that be and what kind of down payment will you need?
- Kids: Do you plan to have them? How many? Will you want to send them to private elementary or high school? Will you help pay for part or all of college? Will one or both of you want to spend some time at home with them?
- Career: If one of you is not currently happy at work, when is quitting ok? Can you afford for one of you to take a paycut and/or quit if happiness is really an issue? Might one of you want to start your own business?
- Travel: Would you like to take annual vacations? How extravagant do you expect these trips to be?
- Retirement: Does one of you have dreams of retiring by 45? How much are you currently contributing to your retirement accounts, and is it enough to meet your goals? Alternatively, are you overcontributing to your retirement accounts, saving for the future at the expense of meeting some shorter term goals?
3 Steps to Achieving Your Goals
- Discuss them: As stated above, review your goals as individuals and as a couple.
- Assign a dollar value and timeline to each: As much as possible, assess the financial implications of each of your goals for at least the next two years. If you plan to buy a $300,000 house in six years, you might need a $60,000 down payment. So in two years, it would be great to have $10,000 in the bank. If you plan to take $2,000 vacation every two years, you need to save $1,000 per year. If you want to move to a larger apartment when your lease ends in six months, you need to save enough for moving costs and a deposit at the new place before that time.
- Create a plan: Decide how you will pay for your goals. I generally recommend taking the total cost of meeting your goal and dividing it by the number of paychecks remaining until you need the money, then saving part of the total amount each paycheck. Consider opening dedicated savings accounts for your longer-term goals. If you don’t have enough money to save for all your goals at once, you may need to eliminate some altogether, restructure the timing, or attempt to achieve them at a lower cost. For more on an approach to long term planning, see the Your Dollar Plan series.
After you settle in to your new life as a married couple, it will be important to have regular financial checkups. You may want to sit down for 30 minutes each month to review bills, spending, and savings. Make a point of sitting together at least annually to review progress on your initial goals and adjust or set new ones. As your marriage progresses, your initial financial strategy may no longer be appropriate – you should have a talk or series of talks if you experience a sudden windfall, receive a raise or layoff, or decide to have kids and/or that one of you will be a stay-at-home parent. It is important to constantly review and adjust your budget to meet your circumstances. No matter what, remember that marriage is built on trust, honesty and partnership – and that goes for dealing with your finances too!