Tips to be Financially Happy Ever After

couples finance, married couples

That beautiful couple up there are my good friends Nema & Ashlynn.

We are at the peak of wedding season and I just came back from a beautiful wedding in The Woodlands, TX (Not of the two pictured above). With only a week left until my first anniversary, I couldn’t help but think about the weddings I’ve attended, the stressful planning that’s involved, and the sight of the bride and groom’s eyes when they finally say “I do.” This singular, beautiful moment is a promise to love, hold and cherish each other for the rest of your lives…for richer or poorer and till death do you apart... or divorce, whichever may come first.

You see, I may only have one year of marriage under my belt, but my wife and I cohabited for a couple of years before we said our “I dos” and have been pretty successful in our marriage thus far. I’d like to attribute some of our marital success to my professional background, my wife not thinking I’m a loon, and her openness to talk about money. Money is already a taboo subject among some people in the U.S. but when you’re of Hispanic/Latin descent, the level of taboo sky rockets. Growing up, my parents never taught me about money, spoke to me about family finances, let alone tell me how important it is to a marriage. So whether you’re married, a newly wed, or thinking of marriage, I wanted to share a few tips that have helped me have a wonderful first year of marriage.

Have the Money Talks

I cannot stress how important these talks are to a marriage. It is becoming well known fact that finances is one of the leading causes for divorce. The money talk is just that, a conversation. Initiating this conversation may be a bit uncomfortable for some so I would suggest doing this in a semi-private and casual environment. Do not do this at home as it may bring some stress and negativity to the household. My wife and I had our first money conversation a few months into our living arrangement at our kitchen table (where I countlessly saw my parents doing the same). After a few months of disagreements and discussions, we tried something different. We had these conversations over at a coffee shop or during our nightly walks at a nearby park. I think this helped keep us in check from screaming at each other and not listening to what the other had to say.

So what do you talk about? Your debts, credit scores, major purchases, fixed expenses, budgeting, etc.. Anything that you both feel needs attention. The key is to bring it up and LISTEN.

Don’t Judge

This leads me into another tip, Don’t Judge. As it is, you’re already getting financially naked in front of each other (something you probably didn’t have to do until you got married). The last thing you need is for the person you’ll be spending the rest of your life with to make you feel like what’s important to you is wrong. Everyone has different money scripts because they were raised by individuals and that’s all right. Not judging each other’s point of views about money opens up the floor to learn more about each other on a deeper level, not just money.

Take me for example. My family comes from humble beginnings so I was taught never to spend money “foolishly.” But what was foolish to me was not foolish to my wife. Things like small gifts for family, weekend trips to random eateries and the occasional weekend trip. My single self would have thought, “this girl is expensive and likes to waste money.” My married-self learned his wife cherishes family and loves new experiences in the form of food & wandering around aimlessly. Pay attention to what’s being said, don’t judge because you may miss the most important details that makes your spouse special.

Separate Finances vs. Combined Finances

The Big Question, “Should we keep our finances separate or should we combine our finances?” Here’s my simple answer, “Whichever makes you feel more comfortable.” I am personally a big advocate of combining finances once you are married. Why? Because in Texas, we are a community property state and unless you have a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement, your spouse gets half of what you own (there are other exceptions) so comfort is really the only reason to keep things separate. Besides, if something happens to the other spouse and you have separate accounts, who will have access to those funds? If the answer is your spouse, then there really no use to keeping finances separate. I understand everyone has their unique situation and perspective and combining finances may not be for them, but in Texas at least, there are strong arguments to combining your finances after marriage.

Make a Plan & Compromise

Talking, listening, understanding, and asking the important questions is only the beginning. Make a plan with your spouse. It doesn’t have to be this exhausting plan with numbers, statistics, and color graphs. Put pen to paper, write something down, and keep it in a place that will remind you both where you want to be 3-5 years from the time you said I do. For those of you who have been married for some time now and haven't already done so, life has probably changed drastically since you said I do. It may be helpful to sit down with one another and see where life is taking you. Planning doesn't stop when goals are met, it evolves with your lives.

Lastly, compromise. I don't mean to sound too cliché here but marriage is about compromise. Remember you are still 2 different people with 2 different views of the world. Write down the what, the when, and the how and compromise.


MyLife Financial is a fee-only financial advisory firm providing objective and independent advice virtually. Our clients are busy professionals that face daunting questions of how today's financial decisions will affect their long-term financial success. Everything written is strictly for informational use only. Please seek the advice of your CPA, Attorney, or financial professional before implementing any strategies.

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