Story by Jacobson Truex, CFG® of McGlaughlin Ryder Investments Combining lives through marriage is an exciting chapter. With the excitement comes uncertainty and challenges regarding finances. Historically, it was tradition to combine money affairs. Today, couples can find ease, independence and security by keeping their assets separate while avoiding potential areas of conflict. To figure out if combining finances is best for your situation, it is imperative to be open with your partner about expectations. Like relationships in general, a couple should approach finances with an understanding of each partners' values, goals and priorities.
I like to remind clients that there is no right or wrong solution or "one-size-fits-all" to tackling finances before or during marriage. Each state has different laws, but it is generally true that after you get married, you legally share assets and earned income. The sharing of those finances is up to you. Each situation is subjective and requires work. Couples should weigh the pros and cons before deciding if they should combine finances. There are several benefits to combining finances as couples plan and merge their lives. Whether saving for short or long-term goals, combining assets can make it easier to track objectives. Short-term goals can be something like a vacation and long-term can be paying off debt, buying a house, retirement or paying for education. With complicated and ever-changing objectives comes some level of budgeting. Having fewer accounts and combining cash flows makes it easier to establish a budget. This is especially true with common goals and the likely existence of inequality of expenses, debts and income. Other potential advantages for combining assets are tracking, transparency, control, accessibility and easier estate planning. In dealing with surprises, and life is full of them, joint accounts with rights of survivorship allow both partners control and accessibility. This can reduce liquidity issues in an emergency. Joint accounts can also be a great estate-planning tool by allowing uninterrupted access after a partner has passed. In periods of hardships, people appreciate as little work and headaches as possible.
So, why not combine finances? While there are several advantages, it can sometimes create more headaches than couples want. Some couples may choose to keep separate finances or only merge a few. We tend to see that more often in second marriages as one or both parties are weary from divorce. It could be a perception or value of independence and control. We find the usual cause for separation of finances is to avoid a point of contention that can cause resentment in relationships; the unequal split of cash flows, debts and assets. In these scenarios, neither person worries about the other contributing or detracting more than their share as it is out of their control and burden. If you know inequality may create resentment, financial separation may be a key to a happier marriage.
I want to reiterate the importance of understanding each partners’ values because finance is often a sensitive subject. Acknowledging differences, setting goals, planning accordingly, creating systems and working together allow for a successful, wealthy marriage. We recognize that process can be a complicated endeavor for some. If you are struggling with any of the courses of action, you should consider consulting a financial planner to assist. Should you have any questions about combining finances or wealth management in general, we are happy to help you regardless of your chapter in life.
Jacobson Truex, CFP® is a Vice President/Financial Advisor at McLaughlin Ryder Investments located in Old Town Alexandria. His primary focuses are investment management and financial planning with an emphasis on retirement and education. He currently holds his Series 7, 63 and 65 licenses and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.
Jacobson Truex, CFP®
The CFP® designation is conferred by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. To earn the credential, each CFP® candidate must have a bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an accredited college or university and three years of full-time personal financial planning experience. In addition, candidates must take the CFP® Certification examination and complete a CFP®-board registered program or hold an accepted designation, degree or license. Every two years, CFP® certificants must complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education. More information regarding the CFP® can be found at www.cfp.net.