Newlywed Money 101 Eric Sheerin of Barber Financial Group gives advice on how newlyweds should plan their financial future together. BY ERIC SHEERIN
Newly married couples need to play the game of sharing finances.
Financial planning too often focuses on the end game—estate planning, retirement planning, life insurance, legacy building and so on. Helping young people plan their financial world is sometimes lost in the scuffle.
New couples must focus on how to meld two individual financial entities into one, how to talk about money and how to make decisions for "we and us," rather than "I and me."
Here’s what you should know:
First and foremost, your financial world is now a team game. It’s something you are willing to openly discuss in a non-judgmental environment. There are few right or wrong answers—just differences of opinion both sides should respect.
Second, work out a plan to handle money. An easy first step, particularly where both spouses have careers, is to establish a joint checking account for common expenses. Pay personal expenses from your own checking account, but be accountable for contributing your share into the joint account.
Third, remember that saving first and spending what’s left helps you build wealth and live within your means. Setting up a simple budget to cover fixed, predictable expenses, such as housing, food and utilities, helps you determine what’s available to save.
You should have three savings accounts:
1) An emergency fund holding 3-6 months' typical living expenses. 2) Each should contribute to his or her respective retirement account, even if only a small monthly amount. 3) A savings/investment account for larger, longer-term goals, such as a first home or new car. Also, set small accumulation targets in this account. When you hit these targets, reward yourself with a treat, such as a dinner out or a show. These treats make the bigger sacrifice worthwhile.
As newlyweds, check the beneficiary statements on your IRAs, employee pension plans and life insurance. Your spouse should always be the primary beneficiary.
Review property, car, health and life insurance to ensure that each of you is covered appropriately.
Also, if you didn't review the titles of property owned before marriage do so now, such as cars, stock accounts and real estate. You may want to make it community property if you reside in a community property state. If not, at least title it in joint tenancy so if one spouse passes, the surviving spouse is not disinherited.
Finally, write a simple will and durable powers of attorney for health and financial affairs. This ensures if one spouse becomes disabled, the other could make necessary decisions.
Building a life together is more like running a marathon than a 100-meter sprint. It takes time, understanding and good communication. It’s all about teamwork.