Whose last name will you take? Will you have kids? Buy a house or rent an apartment? Marriage brings up many questions which, ideally, the couple will explore before they tie the knot. One significant question to discuss is: Should you merge finances after you get married?
It wouldn’t be entirely uncommon to keep finances separate, according to a new survey from Business Insider and Morning Consult. About 37% of millennial couples maintain separate accounts after marriage, the survey said. You might decide to keep your finances separate if:
- You each have different spending styles
- One partner is working on repairing their credit
- You don’t want to be accountable to another person for your spending
On the other hand, if one person earns substantially more than the other, having joint accounts can create a greater sense of equality in the marriage. Managing combined finances can also help you achieve financial and life goals, such as buying a house or saving for vacation, together, as a couple.
At the very least, filing taxes as a couple makes smart financial sense, as married couples filing jointly gain tax benefits not available to married couples filing separately.
If you decide to combine finances, you can make the transition from single to married a little simpler by following these tips.
1. Decide how you want to merge your money.
Do you want to combine all your accounts, which means keeping each other in the loop on every purchase? Or will you have joint accounts for household expenses, savings and investments, but maintain separate accounts for day-to-day discretionary spending? How much will each of you contribute to your joint accounts? There’s no right or wrong way to merge finances, but it’s important to go in with clear expectations and a plan.
2. Leave room in your budget for occasional overspending mistakes.
It happens — whether it’s a sale on tools at Home Depot or an Amazon shopping spree, people sometimes overspend. Ideally, your budget won’t be so closely managed that a mistake will send you over the edge.
3. Discuss how much you can spend without telling your spouse.
As long as you have some discretionary funds in your budget, you might decide against having to account for every dime you spend. However, you should set a spending limit and agree to consult each other before going over it. This limit could range from $50 for couples on tighter budgets to thousands for couples with higher incomes, but big-ticket items, at least, should be approved by both partners.
4. Seek help if necessary.
You might want to seek legal counsel for assistance changing your will, life insurance beneficiaries and other legal documents. This can get complicated, and you want to make sure everything is filed correctly to make things easier on the surviving spouse in a worst-case scenario.
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