After dating for nine years, my boyfriend and I had become partners through and through. We traveled together, dined together and had lived together for five years counting. We were basically sharing every aspect of our lives. Well, every aspect of our lives except for one: money.
While we tried to view our personal finances as a single unit, things got tricky when it came to making decisions about investing, saving and spending. For example, our incomes differed, and all our accounts were separate, which made money logistics a challenge – should I save for my retirement or help pay for our next vacation (and vice versa)? As a dating couple, we found ourselves in this financial gray area of sorts. Yes, we were a couple, but we were still focused on our individual financial goals. It sounds callous, but we needed to keep this level of financial separation in case we ever, you know, broke up.
Fortunately, this is a story with a happy ending. We tied the knot a few months ago (the only reason we waited was because neither of us had the time to plan a wedding). But we did it! And, to be honest, our lives didn’t magically change post-wedding, but our finances certainly did. Here’s how my finances changed after marriage.
SAVING IS EASIER
Once the post-wedding festivities settled, we were excited to rethink our strategy for investing and saving for retirement. My husband is in graduate school, which means there’s a big rift in our income level. I bring in most of the money, so it made sense that I would put spare income in stocks and CDs (for higher interest). However, that meant a larger portion of my net-worth was tied up in investment accounts that were subject to the ups and downs of the markets. I couldn’t just pull my money in CDs either, as there are penalties for withdrawing funds early. My husband, on the other hand, focused less on investing and more on keeping his savings account flush with easily accessible cash.
It might sound paranoid, but before we were married I was legitimately concerned about what would happen if our relationship ended. I realized I’d have more money tied up in long-term, illiquid investments, while he would have plenty of cash on hand. I worried it could make that transition more difficult for me if we split.
But now that we’re married, I don’t worry about a personal “liquidity crisis.” Now, our incomes are merged, which means we can invest more of my income for the future while also having plenty of cash on hand for any “what ifs” we’ll encounter.
WE STARTED STICKING TO A BUDGET
Before we were married, our spending plans were officially unofficial. We didn’t keep track of who spent what. One person might pay the rent one month, while another handled groceries and gas. When it came to dinner, whoever grabbed the wallet first paid. From Christmas shopping to vacations, our spending essentially came down to the flip of a coin. Fortunately, neither of us are big spenders, but this ad hoc approach to budgeting meant we weren’t really tracking what was coming in and going out of our household.
With our finances merged, I feel more of a responsibility to stick to a budget since we’re sharing these costs and pulling from the same funds now. We talked about setting spending limits and running a purchase past the other if the cost exceeds a certain threshold. Fortunately, we don’t make large purchases all that often and we wouldn’t without telling the other person anyways. Although we haven’t set a limit yet, the conversation reinforced the level of trust we have for each other.
OUR FINANCIAL LOGISTICS ARE STREAMLINED
One of the biggest challenges with our pre-marriage finances was managing those disparate bank accounts. We didn’t want to merge our finances before getting married but doing so clouded our view of the other person’s financial position.
We were always honest and open about each other’s salary and savings account balance, but we still had to ask the other person if we wanted a peek. With joint bank accounts we can spend a little less time getting these basic updates from each other, which makes budgeting much easier. Merging our finances also allowed us to be better spenders. My credit card, for example, has better rewards than his so it made sense for me to always use my card for joint purchases. However, in the spirit of fairness, we alternated who paid for dinners and household expenses while we dated. Now, we just put everything on my card without giving it a second thought.
OUR WEALTH BUILDING SHIFTED INTO OVERDRIVE
Since getting married, we’ve doubled down on our wealth-building efforts. For the first time, expensive goals like buying a home or having a baby feel within our grasp because our finances are now one. Thanks to my husband, my net worth shot up overnight – his did, too. But it’s not just having more money, we’re also more disciplined.
We’re the other person’s best support system and are so encouraging of each other’s financial success. My wins are his wins, and his wins are my wins. Together, we’re stronger.
I FEEL FAR MORE SECURE
This story was originally about how my finances changed, but marriage has me talking “we” and far less “me” now. Most of the changes that happened to my finances, happened to his too. But, personally, I feel the strongest shift is our new sense of security. We didn’t like feeling protective over money. We didn’t like feeling a sense of uncertainty if our relationship didn’t work. We didn’t like keeping mental tabs on who should pay for what. That’s all behind us now. Now we know that every step we take financially, we’ll do so together. We’ll have each other for the good times and the bad, for richer or for poorer.