A new marriage is a profoundly thrilling emotional commitment. It’s easy to be swept up in the excitement and romance of this honeymoon phase at the expense of tackling its serious financial implications. But the fact is, investing time and effort up front to get your joint financial house in order will free you to enjoy your new life together as fully as possible. Reducing money-related stress will only support your relationship over the long term.
Start by understanding the truth behind these common newlywed money myths:
MYTH: Talking about money kills romance.
The truth is, making time for regular conversations about money supports a healthy relationship. There’s no reason to wait for financial issues to crop up. As early as possible (before issues arise): share your history with money; discuss and reconcile your spending habits; and share your expectations and goals for your money. Set aside some time every month (call it a Financial Date Night) to assign money-related tasks, talk about future financial decisions, and review progress toward your goals.
MYTH: When you say “I do,” your individual credit reports are combined.
In fact, credit reporting agencies maintain separate credit histories for you and your spouse. If you have better credit than your spouse, help him/her improve his/her credit score by practicing the following healthy credit habits together:
* Pay bills on or before time
* Maintain low balances on credit accounts
* Avoid opening new accounts, unless necessary
* Pay off debt
Your spouse’s credit will affect any new joint accounts you open. A joint account will require a credit report being checked for both you and your spouse. If your spouse’s credit is too poor to use for major purchases, such as a house or new car, caution should be taken before assuming the financial responsibility for a large asset on your own. Depending on where you live in the United States, should you face a divorce, you may be solely responsible for the debt associated with that asset.
MYTH: Your new spouse’s debt is not your problem.
Legally, you’re not responsible for debt your spouse accrued before your marriage. But, realistically, once you’re married, it’s very likely that your income will be involved in paying off your spouse’s debts. Another reason you want to be mindful and timely about addressing your spouse’s debt: debt is associated with less satisfaction in marriage. Once you have paid down the debt, you’ll have more time and energy to focus on your relationship.
MYTH: Your new spouse is automatically the beneficiary of your life insurance, retirement and other accounts.
Too many people neglect to update beneficiary designations after they marry or re-marry. Community property states may give your spouse some rights to your life insurance automatically, and some states have laws that automatically revoke beneficiary designations to ex-spouses once divorces are final-but you can’t rely on state laws to protect you in every situation. To avoid potential confusion, it’s best to review and update your beneficiaries on your will, life insurance, retirement and other accounts.