Whether you're getting married or having a child, it's important to be prepared for the financial impact these experiences are going to have on your life. Adding to your family is likely to be one of the bigger financial events you will face, so being ready for the change is vital. Budgeting for changes in family life will make the transition easier and create financial security in the long run.
At every stage of your family life, you will encounter various challenges and rewards. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for the life event you face next is to plan ahead. Although you have likely already created a budget and saved money in your lifetime, you will have to consider many other factors when budgeting and saving for your family, including the following.
Financial Planning – It can be useful for you and your partner to meet with a qualified financial planner who can help you develop personal finance goals for the family and create a shared budget. It's important to understand your partner's financial situation before you marry — once you're married, you'll not only be sharing a home and a life together, but also each other's financial history. Joint accounts, expenses and bills will mean your partner's financial circumstances (like their credit history) will begin to affect you. Make sure you both understand each other's financial situation and take steps to handle any potential issues before joining finances. This is also an excellent way to ensure you are in agreement about important financial topics. The Financial Planning Association™ offers valuable information on finding a qualified professional to meet your financial planning needs. Consider finding a free, certified financial counselor through an organization like the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE), a nonprofit organization that aims to improve financial education for both financial counselors and clients.
Taxes – Once married, you will have the option to file your annual income tax returns separately or jointly with your spouse. Filing jointly means that you will combine your income and deductions. Most couples file jointly because it is easier to submit one return than two, and some deductions and credits are only available to married couples filing jointly. It is always wise to consult a tax professional before making tax-related decisions.
Bank Accounts – When it comes to whether you want to maintain joint or individual bank accounts, every family is different. There are numerous options. You can maintain separate bank accounts and each pay a portion of your bills, deposit a set amount into a shared account each month and pay your bills using that account while maintaining separate accounts for your own expenditures, or pool all of your money in one account.
If you decide to hold any of your accounts jointly, keep track of your transactions carefully and communicate about them to your spouse. With two individuals using one account, tracking cash flow can be difficult.
Credit Cards – You should each keep at least one credit card in your name to maintain a separate credit history of your own. If you get divorced or your partner dies, it will be much easier to get a mortgage, loan or credit card with some individual credit activity.
Debt – If you or your spouse has considerable debt, work to pay it off so you can focus on other financial goals. The first step is to get an accurate picture of how much you owe. Next, review your budget and construct a plan to pay off your debt as quickly as possible. The more you can pay per month, the less you will pay in interest overall.
Retirement – A comfortable retirement should be a top priority for every individual. Since people are living longer than ever, retirement savings need to last longer. Develop a plan to ensure you are each contributing enough to your retirement funds to ensure the life you want during your golden years. Our retirement page can help you plan for the future.