Personal Finance

How to talk with your partner about money

Three financial tips for newlyweds
Three financial tips for newlyweds

You've unpacked the gifts and said your "I do's" this wedding season, but before you get settled into your newly married life after the honeymoon, it's a good idea to talk about your finances.

Whether you're about to get married, just married or have been married for years, it's important to sit down and have the money talk with your significant other. Sure it may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised by how many couples aren't on the same page with their finances. According to a new survey from Fidelity, 43 percent of the people could not say how much their partner earned and 10 percent of that group were off by $25,000 or more.

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Having regular money talks that are transparent is key to financial success as a couple. Communication and honesty are the "most important things," said Victoria Fillet, a certified financial planner and founder of Blueprint Financial Planning in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Here's a strategy on how to have the talk.

Know your credit scores

If you're like most couples, money is one of the main reasons you argue. So as newlyweds, you want to get off to a good start with your finances. Experts suggest both getting your credit reports and talking through them. Now that you're married, your credit score affects the other person. If you want to get a loan for a house or car, your partner's bad credit could affect that. Forty-five percent of millennials acknowledge bringing credit card debt into the relationship, according to a recent study by NerdWallet.

If one partners' credit isn't as good as the other's, it is important "not to burden the other person," Fillet said. Figure out a plan where you pull together a joint account for the household expenses and necessities and separate accounts for the extra money after that. Then that person can use the extra money to pay off his or her debt. This helps put a fair and equitable plan in place for both of you.

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Take a look at your credit score, your credit history, your debts and assets so that you know exactly what you are working with. "The most important things is that nobody be surprised and you both work on it together because your married," said David Mendels, a certified financial planner at Creative Financial Concepts in New York City.

Budget together

Being a couple, it's going to be an adjustment thinking in terms of "my finances" to "our finances." A good way to plan together as a couple is to make a budget. Figure out what you each bring in, then try making a list of your monthly income and expenses. That includes your expenses that are a must, like your rent or mortgage, utilities and insurance. Then maybe grab a glass of wine and figure out what extra spending is most important to each of you, such as your gym membership or her manicures.

Once you've got a budget, it's time figure out your accounts. Do you want a joint account, separate accounts, or a combination of both? Financial planners say this depends solely on the couple.

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For some couples, being together means one unit now, so they want to have one pot of money to budget and spend from. Figure out the logistics of a merge. If you have drastically different spending habits, like one is a big spender and the other is a penny pincher, then it might be a good idea to have a joint account for shared expenses and separate accounts for personal expenses.

Also, set a threshold to discuss big spending items. For example, if you spend $50, it may not be a big deal, but you spend $1,500 you should talk about it and decide about that purchase together.

"Couples do not necessarily need to make all financial decisions together, but for the bigger ones, they should confer and agree. To do that well, couples need transparency to know what is happening with all the money," said Dan Moisand, certified financial planner at Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo in Melbourne, Florida.

Plan for the future

You've promised til death do you part and for richer or poorer, but have you really thought what goes into all of it? Now that you have talked about your financial history and your budget, it's time to start planning for your long-term goals. If you've already saved up for a home (good for you), think about what else you both are working toward. It's never too early to start planning for children or retirement.

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When it comes to your budget, financial planners suggest you save 20 percent of your take-home pay and put 10 percent toward savings and the other 10 percent toward retirement. If you have debt, aim to live on 70 percent of your take-home pay. Almost every married couple didn't know what they were doing with their finances when they got married, Mendels said, and many wished they'd saved more.

"The sooner you start the easier it is to get control," he said.