The start of fall may bring cooler weather, pumpkins and the changing of leaves but it also signifies the heart of wedding season – the time of year when most wedding ceremonies take place for couples of all ages and in a range of stages of life. Every year from May to the end of October, engaged couples across the country tie the knot in ceremonies with their friends and family. For months leading up to the big day, conversations center on couples’ dream location, caterer, dress, band and guest list. Every last detail is planned with a variety of checklists to ensure nothing is missed.
Yet, of all the checklists couples complete in preparation for their big day, one has the power to extend their honeymoon bliss more than any other does: a proper personal financial checklist.
If a wedding is in your future, take some time now to tackle a few tough financial topics before they become a reality by creating a personal finance checklist. Together, you and your partner will lay a strong foundation on which to celebrate the next big milestones of life without the stress of personal finances weighing you down. Preparing now can alleviate stresses in the future and you will be better prepared to balance the financial challenges that may come your way.
- Look at the big picture. Whether you dream of one day buying a home, starting a family or preparing for retirement, talk about your shared goals with your partner so that you can make a financial plan personalized for your life together. Online resources, such as USAA’s Financial Readiness Tool and smartphones apps, or meetings with a professional financial planner, are designed to help you map out your financial future. These help to better understand where your money will be going and when the best time is to make these big decisions throughout your lives together based on individual needs.
- Work together to create a budget. Know that financial planning from here on is a team effort, and agreeing to a budget now will help you evaluate future purchases – both big and small. I recommend couples discuss household financial responsibilities and establish clear roles, such as assigning a money CEO who will handle each expense and individual bill, or agreeing to split the ownership of each bill. Of course, these roles can change throughout the marriage, but understanding household financial tasks and agreeing on a game plan will help you work together as a team to tackle financial challenges when they arise over the years.
- Protect your family’s future. It may seem early to think about life insurance, but purchase a policy now to protect the new life you are building with your spouse. The earlier couples buy a life insurance policy and lock in rates, the more money they will be able to save in the long term. In fact, some institutions have recently lowered rates due to regulatory changes making life insurance more affordable for couples of all ages. Preparing for a life together is a major step in a comprehensive personal finance plan that begins with the purchase of a policy that’s right for you.
- Make savings automatic. It is hard to miss money you never saw. With banks’ automatic transfer tools, you can move a portion of each paycheck that works best for your budget directly into savings. Before you know it, you will have a robust savings account for financial emergencies or to use toward your shared dreams over the upcoming years.
- Say, “I do” to free money. By maximizing your 401(k) plans — and taking advantage of employer-matching plans — you and your spouse can build a secure financial future without exerting much effort. Ensure no money is left on the table and more financial stability for your future.
As you and your spouse enter a new life together, you also enter a new phase in your financial journey. Make sure it is engaging and rewarding by creating a shared financial plan to check off the list. I recommend sitting down with your spouse to discuss what makes the most sense for your lives together, as having a financial plan in place can alleviate stresses that may hinder newlywed bliss.
Entering your marriage is also entering a new phase in your financial journey – make sure it is set up to benefit you, your spouse and your family in the future.