1. List your combined assets and liabilities. Assets might include property, vehicles, retirements accounts; liabilities would include mortgages, student loans, and credit card debt.
- 1a. Make sure you each know what you are getting into as far as debt. Your fiance’s debts are your debts after marriage and vice versa.
- 1b. Consider to what extent you want to share and/or reallocate your assets. Does it make financial and emotional sense for you to, for example, sell one person’s investments and put the money toward the other person’s debts?
- 1c. Think about what you would want to happen to your assets if you were to divorce or one of you were to die. Find out what would happen to them, legally, in those situations. If your desires and the legal default are different, write up the necessary documents (pre-nup, will, etc.)
2. Make a budget reflecting your combined income and expenses.
- 2a. Go over your bills so you each know what the other person pays for. Agree on any changes you want to make (getting on the same insurance, getting life insurance, getting on a family cell phone plan, arguing about whether to keep the gym membership you never use, etc.) Are you living together? If not, that opens a whole new can of worms: what will your living expenses be after marriage?
- 2b. What are your savings goals? (Retirement, downpayment, vacations, kids, etc…) How much will you put toward each goal each month? This is the big VALUES discussion so make sure to give this one some serious attention.
- 2c. How much will you spend on fun? It was highly recommended to us that each partner get some of their OWN fun money that they can spend any way they wish and the other partner can’t complain. If all the fun money is joint, you might criticize each other’s purchases, and that is the antithesis of fun. Also consider whether you want a portion of the fun money to go to joint fun, like dates, or if you will each pony up some of your individual fun money for together-fun (or treat each other!)
3. Deal with all the small stuff such as setting up a bank account, making the necessary transfers, setting up direct deposit, etc. Remember to have the big-picture values discussions first, as those conversations will inform the way you set things up in the day-to-day.
4. Divvy up the financial chores. Going forward, how will you maintain your budget? How will you track your expenses? How will you make sure the bills are paid? Who is responsible for what?