Merging finances with your new spouse

Jun 23, 2023

Reading time: 15 Minutes

Newlywed couple walking into their new home

Marriage is a strong commitment that requires love, trust, and loyalty. When two individuals become one in matrimony, they unite various aspects of their lives. One area couples may need help with is merging their finances after marriage due to differing opinions about money.     

As a Christian, it is important to approach marriage with unity and shared responsibility. While keeping separate finances works for some, combining finances is the preferred approach of many couples. 
Joint finances limit the number of accounts you must manage and help a couple redefine the concept of "mine" versus "yours." This approach replaces these individualistic mindsets with a unified "ours".
When your finances are fully shared, financial planning should be more transparent. This can reduce stress and help promote financial wellness. Since financial problems are one of the leading causes of conflict in a marriage, focusing on your financial health as a couple should be a top priority.
The planning and merging of your finances requires great care. It isn't a “one-and-done” event like a wedding, but it still should be handled the same way, if not more carefully than the meticulous way you planned your marriage ceremony.
Ideally, your discussions about all things money will begin well before the "I do's," but if not, there's no time like the present. This article will explore valuable insights and practical steps for merging finances with your new spouse. 

Benefits of Joining Finances Together

From a Christian perspective, merging finances is not just a practical decision but a Biblical one. We are called to love and serve one another, which includes our financial well-being. By sharing all aspects of your financial lives, you create a bond of trust and mutual responsibility that can bring you closer together and strengthen your faith. 
Managing your finances as partners allows for a better understanding of each other's money mindset, which can help eliminate confusion and disagreements. When you understand each other's financial goals and obligations, you can work together to develop a system to achieve them. This leads to easier budgeting, which is critical for financial stability and success.
Transparency is another key benefit of merging finances. There is no room for secrets or mistrust when everything's out in the open. Respect is gained when both partners can access the same financial information and make informed money decisions. 
Shared responsibility is also an advantage of united finances. When you both contribute to the household budget and expenses, you work as a team toward common goals. Sharing the financial burden makes it easier to face challenges and celebrate successes together.
Having "our" finances allows for the creation of shared financial goals. Regularly updating and reviewing these goals can lead to a clearer picture of your financial future. It also ensures you are working toward the same milestones and that your financial priorities are aligned.
"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19 ESV

Getting on the Same Financial Page

Combining your finances with your spouse can be a challenging process. It can also be an excellent opportunity to grow in faith, unity, and stewardship. Trust that you've been given many blessings, including the resources to manage your finances wisely.
Strive to approach your finances with transparency, shared responsibility, and a unified vision for your future. By embracing these principles, you can set up a stress-free, supportive, and financially stable partnership with your spouse.
To get off on the right foot, you need to have a few money-related conversations before you open any new bank accounts or create a new household budget.
These talks are an opportunity to deepen your understanding of your and your partner's financial wellness and future hopes and dreams. They should be open, honest, judgment-free, and fun. It's a time to share your money wins and acknowledge your flaws and weaknesses in handling finances to seek guidance and support from your spouse. 
Notes on financial goals

#1 Discuss Personal Values

As Christians, our financial decisions are founded on our values. Our values guide our priorities, choices, and actions. When it comes to combining finances with our spouse, it's essential to understand and respect each other's values.
It's important to have an open and honest conversation about your values, including your beliefs about money, spending habits, saving, investing, and debt. This can help you understand each other's perspectives and establish common ground.
If you've never reflected on your values before, the following questions can help get you started:
● What's most important to you in your life?
● Why are these things valuable to you?
● How can you make them a priority?
This article dives deeper into identifying your values and using them, along with your reliance on God, to make financial decisions.

#2 Uncover Money Mindsets

Your money mindset is a key factor in merging finances with your partner. It involves understanding the other person's money story and current approach to financial matters as well as your own and how these approaches affect financial decisions.
When two people have different money stories and mindsets, it can create tension and disagreements about managing resources. To avoid this, discuss your attitudes toward money and how they might conflict with or complement each other.
Once you've identified any potential areas of disagreement, work together to find solutions that honor both perspectives.

#3 Develop Financial Pictures

Money is a sensitive topic for many couples, but it is crucial to a successful marriage. Open communication about money can help your relationship in more ways than one.
Having money talks is crucial to ensure both spouses know their financial reality. Being open about your financial situation can help avoid any surprises down the line and aid you in making informed decisions together. 
Transparency is also essential in building trust within marriages. Financial infidelity, the lying or withholding of financial information, can lead to bigger problems in the future and damage your faith in one another. As Christians, we are called to be honest and to live a life of integrity, even when it comes to money.
It is important to understand each other's current financial picture, including income, monthly expenses, credit history, credit scores, and outstanding obligations.
Sharing these financial numbers with your spouse can help you understand the bigger picture and better plan a future together. It can help you create a budget that will cater to any financial obligations and the achievement of goals and prevent conflicts that arise from not understanding your resources and money metrics.

#4 Create Financial Goals

Once you've established your values, money mindsets, and financial pictures, it's time to discuss and set financial goals. As a couple, setting clear and realistic financial goals is essential. Your goals should align with your values and reflect a shared vision for your future.
When setting financial goals, it's helpful to consider both short-term and long-term objectives, including paying off debt, building an emergency fund, saving for retirement, buying a home, or investing in education.
Investment strategies such as retirement or college savings plans are important. Before making investment decisions, you must clearly understand your financial goals and risk tolerance. Pray together and seek guidance from God to discern the best investment options for you and your family. Research different options and seek the advice of a financial advisor if needed.
One of the vital aspects of developing shared financial goals is prioritizing them. This is where you must decide which goals are most important to you as a couple, both in the short and long term.
Once you have named and prioritized your financial goals, it's time to create a savings plan. This involves figuring out how much you need to save to reach your goals and breaking it into manageable chunks.
You'll want to decide precisely how much you need to save for each goal and create a timeline for achieving it. Then, you'll decide how to go about pursuing them.
For instance, will you tackle them one at a time or work on several at once, i.e., focus extra household income on paying off significant student loan debt before working on other goals or allocate a percentage to debt and saving for a down payment on a home to reach both your goals?
Remember that financial success isn't about accumulating wealth but being wise and faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Seek God's guidance in all your financial decisions and trust Him as you work toward your goals.
"The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." Proverbs 21:5

#5 Write a Financial Mission Statement

A financial mission statement is a written document that outlines your financial goals and values. It serves as a roadmap for your financial journey by guiding your decisions and actions. Your financial mission statement should reflect your Christian beliefs and values and align with God's plan for your life.
Creating a financial mission statement is important for several reasons. First, it helps you stay focused on your financial goals and priorities. It is easy to get sidetracked by the pressures of today's materialistic society and lose sight of what is truly important. A financial mission statement helps you stay grounded in your values and make decisions that align with them.
Second, a financial mission statement helps you avoid financial pitfalls and unhealthy financial habits. By reflecting on your financial goals and values, you can find areas where you may be prone to overspending or making poor financial choices. This enables you to avoid these behaviors and develop healthy financial habits.
Creating a financial mission statement is a straightforward process. Start by praying and seeking God's guidance on your financial goals and values. Name what is important to you and how you can use your financial resources to honor Him.
Then, write down your financial goals and values clearly and concisely. Finally, review your financial mission statement regularly and adjust as necessary to ensure you stay on track with your financial goals and values.

Newlywed couple financial planning

Putting It Into Practice

Implementing a financial system may seem daunting, but it can actually make managing finances as a couple much more manageable. Effective systems can include setting rules and guidelines for spending, using apps to manage budgets and track expenses, setting up joint bank accounts, and utilizing credit cards.
Developing a financial game plan and money habits that work best for both spouses is crucial. This may mean setting up a budget that aligns with shared values and priorities, using a specific app or software to track expenses, or even setting up automatic savings and bill payments.
It's also essential to have regular budget meetings to review progress and make any necessary adjustments. This can provide open and honest communication about finances, which can be especially beneficial for couples with different spending habits or financial backgrounds.

Establish a Household Budget

Building a solid foundation for a successful marriage is vital. This includes developing good financial habits and setting a realistic household budget. The importance of establishing and sticking to a budget cannot be overstated when it comes to securing a sound financial future.
A household budget is a tool for newlyweds to ensure that all income and expenses are accounted for, preventing overspending and potential debt. It is also an opportunity to consider individual differences in spending habits and find a balance between personal interests and shared financial goals.
Creating a budget may be difficult initially, but many tools are available to help in the process. Spreadsheets and online templates can help organize expenses and ensure all expenditures are accounted for.
Both spouses should be aware of and involved in the financial decision-making process, even if one person isn’t employed. 

Open Joint Bank Accounts

Joint accounts provide a straightforward way to manage a couple’s finances. Joint checking accounts are essential for managing the day-to-day expenses of the household. This account can be used to pay all the regular bills such as mortgage, utilities, or groceries. By pooling resources in this account, both partners can have equal access to the funds needed to manage household costs.
Savings accounts are also crucial for accumulating an emergency fund and saving for future expenses such as a new house, car, or education. Joint savings accounts can help both partners contribute to these funds, making reaching your financial goals more manageable.
When opening an account, most financial institutions require both spouses to supply personal identification and proof of address. Once open, both can deposit funds into the account and write checks or set up payments for household costs.
It is important to note that when opening joint checking accounts, all automatic debits and direct deposits must be updated to reflect the new account information. If not done correctly, this can cause issues with delayed payments or overdraft fees.

Track Your Money and Your Goals

Several online tools are available for tracking money, such as Mint, Good Budget, You Need a Budget, and Tiller. These tools allow you to connect your bank accounts, budget expenses, and track your progress toward financial goals. With various features like bill tracking, alerts for impending bills, and budget planning, these tools automate the tracking process and save you time in the long run.
Tracking financial goals is another important part of responsible stewardship. Consider the various tracking methods available to you. You can use mobile apps, spreadsheets, and pen-and-paper methods. Choose the method that best suits you and your spouse's needs.
Regular check-ins are critical for ensuring you're on track with your financial goals. Set aside time for regular check-ins to assess your progress, make adjustments, and celebrate your successes. Use this time to reflect on your progress and discuss any upcoming expenses or changes to your financial system.

Keep Taxes in Mind

Getting married changes your tax situation, and it is important to understand how to navigate this aspect of your financial life.
In most cases, married couples file joint tax returns. This allows them to take advantage of many deductions and benefits together as a unit. However, there may be situations where filing separately would be the wiser choice, especially if one spouse has significant medical expenses or high student loan debt.
It's best to take a strategic approach to your taxes and consider which filing status will result in the lowest joint tax. Try calculating taxes both as a joint return and as separate returns to figure out which filing status is best for your circumstances. If you’re unsure, consult a tax specialist for more information.
As you plan your finances, consider the tax implications of any financial decisions. For instance, choosing to contribute to a retirement account with pre-tax income to reduce taxes today or contributing on an after-tax basis to minimize future tax expenses.

Attend to Estate Planning Documents and Beneficiaries

After getting married, it is essential to create or revisit your estate plan and documented beneficiaries to ensure that they reflect your new marital status and any other changes that may have occurred in your life. Here are some steps to create or update estate planning documents and beneficiaries after marriage.
First, review and update beneficiary elections on retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Ensure that your new spouse is listed as the primary beneficiary and update any secondary or contingent beneficiaries as well.
In addition, be sure to share login information and passwords for online accounts for emergency purposes. This can include bank accounts, investment accounts, and other financial resources that may need to be accessed in an emergency or unexpected situation.
The next step is to create or update all major estate planning documents, including wills, financial powers of attorney, and powers of attorney for health care. Be sure these documents reflect your current and future goals, such as supporting your spouse and any children or other loved ones in the event of your passing.
Inheritance planning is an essential aspect of being a good steward of God's resources. Creating or updating estate planning documents and beneficiaries after getting married can help ensure your wishes are fulfilled and your family is cared for.

Strive to Keep it Simple

When creating your financial systems, keep things simple to ensure that both parties are on the same page and understand their roles and responsibilities.
Start by sharing all financial information, including accounts, investments, and other related documents. This will help to ensure transparency in the relationship and minimize surprises down the line.
Next, discuss goals and priorities and set a budget that works for both of you to ensure your spending is aligned with your desired outcomes. Then open joint savings and checking accounts. Note: you will keep retirement finances separate in individual qualified retirement accounts.
Finally, consider using online budgeting tools or apps to automate and track your spending and stay on top of your finances and goals. This can be particularly helpful if you are newly married, as it simplifies the budgeting process and makes it easier to stay on track.
Merging finances with a new spouse can be manageable and without undue stress. By taking the time to communicate and think out your plans, you can avoid future money conflicts and put your partnership in the best position for financial success and marital bliss.
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