Merging your money as you merge your lives can be rough. You’ve been making your own decisions and now there’s somebody asking questions when the bank statements come in! This was challenging for my wife and me because of our different money personalities (I’m naturally a spender, while she’s naturally a saver) . With that in mind, here are 7 tips that I wish I knew when we were getting started.
1. Merge your finances, but do so deliberately. You need to have a main operating account for running your household, but don’t rush to dump everything in it at once. Take your time and make sure you only have your regular, recurring 30 day expenses coming out of that account. This makes the account easy to review and keeps clutter to a minimum.
2. Set up separate accounts and transfer a set amount weekly into those accounts. Everybody should have money that they don’t have to be accountable for. As long as you decide what that amount is up front, it saves a lot of arguments later about how much somebody spends on coffee, going out to lunch, etc. Just make a decision about what your discretionary money is up front and save yourself from arguments later.
3. Review and discuss finances weekly. This keeps you from getting to the end of the month and having a big blow-up about something financial that happened. It can also keep both of you informed about your plans (financial and otherwise) in the coming week. It’s easy to set aside 15 minutes every Sunday to take a quick look back at last week, a quick look forward at the coming week, and make financial decisions.
4. Set a limit on how much you can spend without discussing it first. My wife and I agreed we at least have a quick phone call for anything over $100. Many times this is unnecessary, but it’s a great way to keep the lines of communication open and continue building trust.
5. Talk about your money history. It’s worthwhile to have a structured conversation about what money was like in each other’s families as you grew up. A favorite question of mine is “what is your earliest memory about money?” We are products of our environments and having a sense of what things were like growing up can give some insight on our root beliefs about money.
6. Spend some time crafting your shared vision. What would we do if we could do anything? What are some great experiences that you’ve had (or that we’ve had together) that we would like to have more of? Going through a deliberate visioning process can make change easier. As Dan Heath talks about in this video at Fast Company, people need to See-Feel-Change in that order. I have clients craft a vision, and then create a small photo book with great things they’ve done, and then images of things they want to accomplish. Having that bigger yes makes it easier to say no to the smaller things that come up on a daily basis.
7. When in doubt, laugh, and remember why you married them in the first place. I got this tip from Kathleen at KBK Wealth Connection in her blog this morning. Chances are you didn’t choose your spouse for their financial skills, so don’t expect them to be perfect.
These tips won’t ensure marital bliss, but I do think they can make your early marital life more peaceful.
What tips would you add to my list? Please let me know in the comments section below.