It’s a question I hear often as clients consider tying the knot. Hopefully, the topic of finances is something discussed before walking down the aisle. Most people who have been married before or wait to wed, are more open to talking about finances before nuptials.

Being married does not mean you have to merge everything, including finances. Think about it. Are you planning to merge everything you do in life with your new spouse?

Will you share the same clothes?

Will you give-up eating lunch with colleagues because your spouse isn’t there?

Will you have the same job to ensure you’re always together?

Will you give-up activities with friends because your spouse isn’t joining you?

It sounds ridiculous when put in those terms. But many people are perplexed about finances when they get married. They assume because they are married they have to merge their finances.

Historically, it made sense when women didn’t work or when couples married young. Nowadays, with second marriages or even getting married later in life, many people are used to their autonomy in life and money.

Yes, marriage means doing things together. But not all the time as shown in the above examples.

Yes, marriage means building wealth together and sharing expenses. But what if you’re older when you marry?

When working with couples on their spending, it’s expected that there’s a difference of opinion on how to spend money. One person may view the other person’s spending as frivolous or too tight.

With couples marrying later in life, one person may have large outstanding debts such as educational loans. When you marry, does this loan become joint responsibility or remain with the person who incurred it?

With second marriages, one person may have children from the previous marriage. Even if those children are adults, they may still want to buy things for them. One of my clients enjoys having a monthly spa day with her daughter. Another client still pays for his adult son’s car expenses, including insurance.

A solution to address both of these examples is adding a category in your spending plan (aka budget) called “discretionary spending.” That category can include purchases for electronics, golf, clothes, spa, and even repaying pre-marital outstanding debt.

Having this category will also prevent lying about spending. Unfortunately, when one’s spending habits are viewed negatively by the other spouse dishonesty can evolve.

Creating a spending plan for couples is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how to manage money as a couple. Read my previous blog “3 Ways to Handle Money As A Couple“. There is no right way to handle money as a couple, you just need to find the best way for your relationship.

Just because you’re married, doesn’t mean you have to do everything together or merge all your finances together. Be realistic about your situation and approach the topic of finances before there is a stressful situation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, RICP®,CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include developing spending plans, comprehensive financial plans, divorce financial reviews, retirement plans. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me.’”