There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to handling your finances as a married couple. It will depend on your attitude about money. Is one of you thrifty? Is one a spender? How much debt does each of you have? You might find some areas where you’ll both be happy to share responsibilities, but others where you will want a compromise. Before you combine your finances (even if you’re married), talk about your financial goals, your attitude and behavior about money, and the debts you have to pay.
Mixing, Separate Accounts
Should you have separate accounts or should you open a joint account? Always be wary about having a joint account when one of you has a bad credit history. Remember that banks will rely on your accounts for the approval of home and car mortgages. It will not look good for both of you to have a bad credit line. So, who gets to handle the money? Ideally, the person who is more financially responsible should be the bank account holder. Don’t leave the credit or debit card with the person who has a propensity for impulse buys.
However, splitting the bills in half and letting each one spend the rest of their money the way they want to can cause problems, too. Who will save for future purchases? How are you going to afford a house and a car? What if there are already kids involved? The most ideal scenario is to combine the finances, allocate money for the bills and grocery, and decide what to do with the rest of the money if there’s extra.
People come to the altar full of baggage. Financial baggage, that is. Whether these are student loans, car mortgages, gambling habits, or credit card debts, they can hurt the marriage more than anything else if you are not honest about them. You can’t hide it from your spouse either because chances are, you’re going to apply for a home mortgage together. The bank will need to see your credit history.
Here’s what you need to know: debts before marriage stay with that person only in terms of credit history. So, in such cases, the spouse with a better credit line should apply for the home mortgage. But if that person with a huge debt dies, the living spouse will inherit the debts. It’s a common-law thing.
Are you both spenders or savers? Or is one a saver while the other one saves? Do both of you have to help your side of the family? It’s important to know your money personality. Is it more important for you to have the latest gadget or to save that tax refund? Often, the person who saves a lot should be the one to handle both finances. These savers are often called cheapskates by their partners, but that’s better rather than getting into debt, right?
You both have to decide who is the best person to handle the money in a marriage. And when that person agrees to be the one to manage the money, he/she should be ready to discuss finances with the other spouse. This means informing that spouse about the amount of the bills to be paid every month and how much you were able to save in that period.
What are the different scenarios that affect the power play with money? One of you earns more than the other, both partners want to be employed but the other can’t find a job, one of the spouses doesn’t have a job, and one of the spouses comes from a moneyed family. The bigger money earner usually wants to be the one to control the money. After all, he/she is the one who earns more, right?
In some cases, if one partner has a good job but the other has more family money, it creates tension over who should be the decision-maker. The important thing is to sit down and talk about your feelings about such scenarios. Love and respect will come into play in each of these situations.
Of course, having children changes things. You cannot spend as much as you used to. Their needs will come first. You’ll have to spend on your kids and save enough money for them until they’re ready to be out in the world. That’s assuming that your kids will leave the nest eventually. Remember that the economy is tough these days. Kids don’t have as much financial power to leave their parents’ house as before. Having kids means that their needs will come into play. Married couples have to decide who are the priorities in the household. Money is not a topic people want to discuss, especially if there’s no money to speak of in the first place. Marriage changes things and having children will turn your financial life upside-down. Make sure you are honest about your finances. That’s the golden rule in handling finances in the marriage.