For many people in long-term relationships, marriage may appear to be the logical next step. After all, each partner already plays a significant role in the other’s life. Yet the decision of whether to tie the knot may not be cut and dry for everyone. In these cases, it’s important to think about some factors that could affect your finances and your lives as a married couple.
First Steps: Discuss Your Beliefs and Goals
In a 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association, nearly one-third of respondents indicated that money was a major source of conflict in their relationship. The APA explains that we inherit our beliefs about money and finances from our families. When a couple doesn’t discuss financial viewpoints and goals early in their partnership, this can lead to misunderstandings and arguments later on.
No matter what stage your relationship is at, it’s vital to have a serious conversation about money. The APA recommends a few questions that you can ask during this discussion:
- What did your parents believe and teach about money?
- Do you have any financial goals?
- What are your feelings and fears about money?
A Few Practical Tips for Couples
While talking to each other about money is a good initial step, it’s also critical to work as a team. As the APA mentions, your efforts should include assigning financial responsibilities and developing a monthly spending plan. You’ll need to consider important duties such as paying bills, banking, overseeing day-to-day spending, and contributing to savings and investment accounts.
Some adopt what they believe to be a straightforward approach: letting one partner handle paying the bills and short-term household spending while the other deals with savings, investments, and retirement plans. However, some experts caution that this method can lead to conflicts. Consider trading these roles each month or sharing them equally.
Finances in the Long-Term
Smart money management in temporal affairs is a must, but looking at long-term issues is also essential. NerdWallet’s Emily Starbuck Crone mentions that many factors can impact your financial health as a married couple:
- Tax liabilities
- Government benefits
- Health insurance
- Financial aid
- Inheritances and gifts
Discussing these issues is crucial, particularly if you plan on getting married. As a spouse, you could qualify for Social Security or other government benefits tied to your partner. You may be able to take advantage of your spouse’s health care plan, especially if it offers generous benefits. You’ll also avoid paying gift or inheritance taxes if your mate leaves you a large estate.
On the other hand, tying the knot may result in other challenges. Due to a higher combined income, you could lose public assistance and disability benefits. Marriage may also place you into a higher tax bracket if you both earn a lot of money each year. A higher joint income can also impact financial aid eligibility if you or your children still attend school.
Don’t Forget About Your Debt Load
LGBTQ couples also need to determine and confront their debt situation. Many individuals carry outstanding student loan debt from higher education costs. For that reason, Money writer Kerri Ann Renzulli stresses the importance of transparency. She advises readers to accurately assess how much debt they have and share this information with their partners. A joint net worth statement can be a useful tool to help you see your liabilities and develop a plan to pay them off.
Can love conquer all? The answer to that question is still hotly debated. One thing is for certain: Money matters present real issues for many LGBTQ couples. Wise practices are paramount in short-term household finances. Meanwhile, long-term issues like taxes and debt also impact a couple’s future. Whatever your situation, honesty and strategic planning can result in positive outcomes.