Getting married is one of the biggest milestones we accomplish in life. We take vows with a person whom we intend to stay with for the rest of our lives. Marriage is a pretty big commitment that requires a lot of patience, honesty and respect. The same could be said for how marital finances should be handled.
In terms of marital finances, the past refers to being open and honest about your financial situation with your spouse before you actually get married. This will eliminate any future arguments and allow them to be on the same page about where you stand. If you acquired debts before the relationship started, let them know how and why they were accumulated. Some debts, such as a student loan or mortgage, are pretty self-explanatory, but if you bring unsecured debt such as credit cards, let them know how and why you're carrying the debt.
The present is where the finances actually change. While I am an advocate for combined finances, do what works best for you. I think that combined finances work the best because it's just easier. There are fewer bank accounts to worry about, less money division and more transparency. Even though one spouse may make more money than the other, it doesn't mean that the other spouse puts less effort into the family household. Difference in income could be made up through an increase in household management.
Regardless of what banking arrangements you agree to, together you need to create a family budget. Include all expenses, and if there is debt being brought into the marriage, figure out how it's going to get paid off, together. The budget you make when you're first married is not the same budget you'll have in even two years. Budgets are not meant to be set and forgotten about; they need adaptation and modification as your life changes. You initially may not budget for children, but as the time approaches that you may consider having kids, a line will need to be added into the budget.
If you're not ready to totally combine finances and are in a dual-income household, you need to figure out who is going to pay which bills.
Figuring out who will manage day-to-day finances will also make your life easier. In our home, I manage the day-to-day money, but that doesn't mean my husband is any less involved in the finances. Any changes are agreed on together, as are almost all purchases. While I don't ask my husband for permission to buy the milk we may need, I would at least let him know if I had plans to buy a new TV.
Future plans need to be agreed upon - you guessed it - together. Having common financial goals is so important to making your marital finances successful. Figuring about stuff like debt repayment and retirement savings together sets you up for success.
Monetary disagreements are a huge reason why couples split up. Being open and honest from the beginning will help prevent this. Money isn't the cause of relationships dissolving; it's the lack of communication about money that is the culprit. Start early and make money conversations a regular part of your daily life. Don't be a statistic.
After graduating with her second university degree in Dental Hygiene, Catherine and her new husband found themselves deep in debt. Fast-forward a few years; with the arrival of their daughter now impending, Catherine decided they needed to get real about their debt and started her blog Plunged in Debt to help keep them accountable. This is her personal space where she chronicles their journey and discusses all things personal finance, marriage and mommyhood. Catherine credits her blog and freelance writing career to helping her and her husband meet their monthly financial goals. Connect with Catherine on Twitter.