An incredible 43% of the general population admitted to not talking finances before marriage. With all the emotion surrounding money, it’s no surprise that financial issues cause trouble once the honeymoon is over.
At Betterment, we recommend newlyweds tackle financial issues head on. It’s a discussion too important to ignore.
As the wedding season kicks off, our CEO Jon Stein made multiple appearances on the national morning show on Fox News, Fox & Friends, to share our tips on achieving financial and marital harmony. The segment builds off of what we have previously written on newlywed’s financial planning into four actionable steps.
The Three Pot System
40% of Americans say that trust about financial issues is more important than honesty regarding infidelity. Joint accounts help to build trust between couples. The “3 pot system” is a trending solution to help couples get organized. It includes one account for shared expenses – like rent, new furniture, and electricity bills – and two separate accounts for each spouse’s personal expenses. As things change, you will want to reassess what is paid for from which account, however this system is a nice way to transition to shared finances and build up that crucial trust.
Set an online budget
If you already have joint accounts, it’s easy to establish automatic transfers for paying bills and contributing to savings goals. If you haven’t already, use a tool like mint.com or YNAB.com to put together a plan that works for you and your partner. Communication is a key factor in making the budget achievable. Be sure to have an ongoing dialogue about the budget as your financial situation evolves.
Automate your goals
The most important part of a savings plan is the goals you are saving for. It’s important to align your interests and your expectations for these goals – like when you plan on achieving them, how much you need to save now compared to later, or how much you can devote to your personal goals.
Different goals require different plans of savings action. Betterment can help you set up goals based on appropriate time frame and investment allocation. Think about them early and start an automatic transfer to your savings as soon as possible. Work these goals into your budget and you can look at it as “paying yourself”. Also, baking in savings as a non-negotiable “cost”, like paying bills, is a great way to take the stress out of finding money left over at the end of the month to put towards your goals.
Retirement should be every newlywed goal
It’s never too early to start planning for retirement and a wedding is the perfect milestone to get you thinking about the future. If your employer provides a 401(k) savings plan, max out your contributions. Set up an IRA or Roth IRA (and see here for tips on choosing the right one) in addition to your employer-provided plan. If you do not save for retirement through work, IRAs and Roth IRAs are great tax-advantaged ways to prepare for retirement and those contributions should be maxed out, too. Finally, be on the look out for fees in whichever vehicle of retirement savings you use – we encourage all readers to watch the Frontlinepiece on hidden fees in retail retirement accounts, and see the Betterment response to it here.
Shared finances are a new territory, but with these steps you can navigate the journey much more smoothly. Congratulations! And good luck.