Best Practices

How to Manage Finances in a Marriage

Date Published: Nov 08, 2023
Jim Hughes, editor at
Sophia Rodriguez, reviewer at
Listen minutes

Navigating the waters of matrimony often brings couples face-to-face with the ebb and flow of financial management. Combining lives means melding financial habits, goals, and expectations, which, if left unmanaged, could lead to larger issues.

After all, over one-third of married couples list finances as their largest relationship struggle. Understanding how to manage finances in marriage is a stepping stone towards a harmonious life together.

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In this article, we will explore actionable strategies and thoughtful discussions that can guide you and your spouse in creating a robust financial foundation, fostering not only monetary security but nurturing the trust and understanding that feed a prosperous marriage.

8 Best Ways to Manage Money as a Couple for a Strong Financial Future

The tips below outline steps couples can take to manage their finances healthily and effectively.

Communicate Openly

Open communication about finances can help build trust and set shared goals in a marriage. Transparent discussions prevent potential conflicts, ensuring both partners are aligned in their financial journey.

Married couple smiling and looking over financial statements

Choose a relaxed moment to discuss each other’s financial situations, goals, and values, approaching the topic non-judgmentally. If challenges arise, consider seeking professional guidance to navigate the conversation.

Decide on Joint or Separate Accounts

One of the most significant financial decisions a couple has to make is whether to start a joint account or maintain separate financial spaces. The choice between joint and separate bank accounts, or a combination of both, can influence the financial dynamics of the relationship.

And, for many, a mix of joint and separate accounts strikes a balance between transparency and financial independence. To make sure you’re well-informed of the options, here are some insights into each:

Joint Accounts

With a joint account, couples can streamline bill payments and shared expenses, promoting transparency and fostering open communication about where money is spent. It also can symbolize unity and a commitment to shared financial objectives, such as saving for a home or vacation planning.

However, a joint account can reduce financial independence, potentially leading to disagreements due to differing spending habits or priorities. Moreover, a significant income disparity between partners can result in feelings of inequality or tension regarding fund allocation and spending. Make sure to thoroughly review each of your priorities for expenses and savings.

Separate Accounts

Separate accounts can help partners maintain financial autonomy, which may appeal to couples who have differing spending habits. Separate accounts can reduce financial conflicts by preventing disputes over individual spending and making it easier to plan personal surprises without others noticing.

However, having separate accounts can also be more difficult when managing shared expenses and coordinating payments. They can also create a sense of division or lack of unity.

How to Combine Finances After You Get Married

If you decide to share finances with your partner, here are some clear steps to follow:

  • Start a joint account. This could be a good time to try a new bank or credit union. If you plan on getting a home loan later, choosing a bank that gives special deals to its members for such loans is a smart move.
  • Take it slow. Start with a joint bank account, then think about what other parts of your finances you want to bring together.
  • Match your spending habits. Sharing an account helps you both see how money is spent, which can help control spending. But it could cause problems if one partner spends more than the other.
  • Decide who pays for what. Don’t miss paying a bill because you thought your partner would pay it. Decide early on who pays each regular bill.
  • Know the downsides. If your partner has a low credit score, merging bank accounts may lower your credit score.

After merging accounts, if an emergency comes up and you think about getting payday loans online for an emergency, it's better to apply using the name of the spouse with the better credit score.

Create a Shared Monthly Budget for Newlyweds

Having clear goals for your money in a marriage can help keep both parties informed and comfortable with each other’s spending habits. Having an idea of how you’ll divide expenses between you can also prevent any financial strain from differing opinions on how costs will be covered.

Close up on a couple calculating budget Here are some tips on how to start forming a monthly budget:

  • Pool together your combined monthly incomes to get a clear picture of your joint earnings.
  • List your shared essential expenses, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, and groceries.
  • Set aside a collective amount for savings, treating it as a shared commitment to your future together.
  • Remember to plan for shared experiences and personal desires such as dates, entertainment, or joint hobbies.
  • Since life can be unpredictable, consider maintaining a shared emergency fund.

As you both adjust to this new collaborative process, you'll find budgeting to not only be about numbers but also about building trust and understanding in your relationship.

Set Financial Goals

The early stages of marriage present an ideal time to dream together and pinpoint where you'd like to be financially in the coming years. Whether you hope to own your dream home, explore the world through travel, or ensure a comfortable retirement, outlining both your short-term and long-term financial aspirations can keep you and your partner’s visions in sync.

Having a clear set of goals not only gives you a roadmap to follow but also becomes the driving force that fuels your commitment to your budget and savings plan.

Manage Debt

Debt can be a significant source of stress in any relationship, especially if it hasn't been discussed openly. Whether it's student loans, credit card debt, or any other obligations, laying everything out on the table provides clarity and helps in formulating a strategic financial plan.

By creating a joint strategy to tackle this debt, which could involve methods like consolidating loans or focusing on high-interest debts first, you're not just taking steps towards a debt-free life but also reinforcing trust and transparency in your relationship.

How Is Borrowing Money as a Couple Different?

Understanding the differences between borrowing as a couple and an individual can ease the process. Here are some key considerations when applying together:

  • Credit Score: Individual scores in marriage remain separate, but joint actions, like shared credit accounts, affect both. Ensure you both maintain good scores for better joint loan terms.
  • Liability: Joint debts make both partners responsible for repayments. Before committing, assess both your financial situations, as missed payments by one can impact both your credits and increase the other's liability.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: Lenders may consider the combined ratio for couples, which, if low, can yield better loan terms. Manage debts and maintain stable incomes for a favorable joint ratio.
  • Qualifying Amount: Combined incomes may allow couples to qualify for larger loans. Use this advantage wisely to meet financial goals without overextending.
  • Co-signing: One partner can help the other secure credit by co-signing. But be aware of the risks to credit scores and shared repayment responsibilities.

Build an Emergency Fund

Picture a sudden $2,000 car repair. Instead of scrambling or resorting to high-interest solutions, a joint emergency fund can cover unplanned costs, keeping your finances stable.

To build it:

  • Decide on a joint monthly savings amount.
  • Automate transfers to the fund.
  • Periodically adjust based on your shared expenses.
  • Use only for genuine emergencies.

Together, set aside three to six months of combined expenses in an accessible account. This fund safeguards against surprises, from job losses to unexpected repairs.

Invest Together

Investing is an avenue that can help your money work for you and amplify your wealth over time. However, there are risks in investing, and knowing your and your partner’s risk tolerance can prevent financial discomfort or tension in investing. Seeking advice from a financial advisor can offer clarity and direction.

Whether you're drawn to the world of stocks and bonds, venturing into real estate, or prioritizing retirement accounts, the key is to ensure both of you are knowledgeable and at ease with the risks involved.

Regular Financial Check-Ins

Just as you would nurture and check in on the health of your relationship, assess your financial well-being periodically. By scheduling regular reviews of your monetary situation, you can create a ritual of accountability and united growth.

These check-ins can ensure you're progressing toward your goals, offer opportunities to make adjustments, and provide moments to celebrate the financial milestones you achieve together. Committing to these sessions fosters open communication and sets the stage for sustained financial growth and harmony.

Sum Up

Embarking on the shared journey of marriage also means navigating finances as a united front. By setting clear goals, actively managing debts, investing wisely, and consistently evaluating financial health, couples lay the foundation for harmony and success in their shared financial endeavors.

Ana-Maria Sanders, author at OpenLoans
Lead Writer
Ana-Maria Sanders is a highly-regarded writer with over a decade of expertise in the personal finance sphere, specializing in loans and credit cards.
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