What do YOU want to do?...
Have you tied the knot or are you moving in together soon? Get on the same ledger now. You and your beloved’s finances are about to get entangled in an epic love triangle. To make sure it’s an affair to remember (fondly), set the relationship up the right way with long-term goals in mind.
Know your monthly expenses
If you don't already have a budget in place, now is the time to figure out how much you need for your everyday living expenses on a monthly basis.
Schedule a money talk
If you haven't already had a heart-to-heart talk about your individual financial situations, values and goals, do not delay on this important step. It is crucial to the success of your relationship that you start out with full disclosure, which lays the foundation for a lifetime of trust and shared goals.
Throughout the course of this year...
Brainstorm approaches that might work for you
There are many ways to combine money: going "all in" and just having one account that you both use; keeping your money completely separate and dividing shared bills fairly; opening a joint account for shared expenses but keeping separate accounts for personal spending; the list goes on. The important thing is to determine what will work best for your relationship.
Plot out your financial future and stay on track
Set a regular time to meet and talk about money. During these meetings you should discuss your day-to-day spending as well as set goals and evaluate your joint progress toward those goals.
Reduce any outstanding debt
The sooner you can pay off debt you incurred before you met, the sooner you can embark on your shared goals together. In the meantime, avoid getting into further debt together.
Save six months of living expenses
It's important to have an emergency fund to cover your monthly bills in case something happens like a job loss or extended illness.
If the first method you try causes money fights or makes it difficult to stay within your budget, try something new. Don't let well-meaning family and friends tell you there is only one way – find the way that works for you.
Throughout the years...
Adjust your routine as life changes
As your relationship matures and you become more interdependent, it might make sense to change up the way you handle your money through the years. Don't feel like you have to stick with the same method that worked best when you first combined finances.
Keep open communication
Keep talking about money even as you become comfortable with the routine that works for the two of you. One partner may be more inclined to take care of the money, but make sure you both stay in the know through the years.
Start on your estate plan
You might think that once you're married your estate will automatically go to your spouse should something happen to you. That's not always the case, depending on your state of residency and whether either of you have children from previous relationships. Make sure you have at least the basic documents in place: a will, power of attorney for health care, general power of attorney and a living will.