Financial Advice By: Carmen Wong Ulrich
Q: I’m getting married in less than two months, and I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to joining my finances with my future husband’s! Where do I even start? My fiancé and I have barely talked about money since we got engaged! Help!
A: I wish you’d asked this question after your third date! When it comes to money and love, it’s rarely too early to start even some discussion. But it’s also never too late.
Start by pulling all your financial-facts together: How much debt do you have and in what form? What kind of savings do you have as well as any other assets? What state is your credit record in? Both of you should make this a starting point—the facts. By being upfront, especially about debts, you can both avoid surprises down the road, say, when you buy a home together.
This is just a jump-off point. From there, start talking about assumptions and expectations about household expenses such as who-pays-for-what. Set up a system that you both can agree on, for example, maintaining one household checking account that you both contribute to in order to pay joint bills such as rent or the mortgage. And just as importantly, discuss your financial goals: Do you want to start up a joint annual vacation fund? Or save up for a home or kids’ college education?
Come to the table with an attitude of partnership, not confrontation. After all, if you’re partners in life and in love, you should also be partners in money.
Carmen Wong Ulrich is the co-Founder and former President of ALTA Wealth Management and a Professor in NYU PolyTech‘s school of Finance and Risk Engineering. She is an author and the former host and co-creator of CNBC‘s “On the Money,” and currently the money advice columnist for Good Housekeeping, a contributor to MSNBC and CNN as well as a frequent expert guest on ABC’s “The View.”