When it comes to wellness, one factor is often overlooked: finances. And when you’re one-half of a couple, financial security isn’t an individual pursuit, it’s a collaborative effort. In these uncertain times, reaching your financial goals as a couple might be challenging, but it’s a crucial part of building a happy, healthy relationship. Here are a few key elements of financial planning for couples.
Start Tracking Your Income and Expenses
First things first: if you’re not already both tracking your income and expenses, you should be! You can download a free app to keep track, make spreadsheets, or just use a pencil and paper. This is the easiest way to determine where your money is going, how much you’re really saving, and whether you could cut back in any specific areas.
Establish Emergency Funds
If you don’t have emergency funds set up, this should be your first financial priority as a couple. If you are not married, it is best to keep these accounts separate. You can decide how much you’d like to have saved for emergencies overall, divide that number by two, and aim to save that much in your individual account.
Start by saving up one month’s living expenses, then three months, then six, preferably in a high-yield online savings account to gain additional interest. This can take a while, so don’t feel like you’re falling behind if you need to approach this as a long-term project. Depending on your lifestyle and careers, you may decide that you’d like extra security and choose to save beyond six months. You might also decide to have several smaller emergency funds dedicated to specific concerns, like car maintenance or vet bills. If you’re American, you or your partner may have a health insurance plan that allows you to open a tax-advantaged health savings account, which can also be part of your emergency savings plans.
Set Mutual and Individual Goals
Remember, financial planning as a couple isn’t just about setting goals that you hope to achieve together—it’s also about supporting each other in your individual endeavors. Perhaps you would both like to save up for a down payment on a house or for your future children, but one of you would also like to go on a solo trip to a particular destination or open up your own business. You’ll need to account for both types of goals in your overall budget and savings targets!
Align Your Financial Decisions With Your Values
As you’re discussing your major financial goals together, it’s a good idea to check in with yourselves and make sure that you’re building the life that is right for you as a couple rather than giving in to familial or societal pressure to make certain choices. For instance, don’t feel like you have to save for a huge wedding if what you truly want is a small intimate ceremony. And if you’d both prefer to work fewer hours, spend more time together, and live more frugally, rather than working long hours for higher pay, you can work towards this arrangement together.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to go over your spending and make sure that your money is going toward things you value. For example, if neither of you enjoys cooking and you’d prefer to prioritize convenience, spending more on takeout is fine as long as your budget allows for it—but if you’d both like to save on food and eat healthier, then perhaps switching to home cooking would be the better decision.
Hold Monthly Financial Meetings
Having monthly financial meetings is a great way to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to your savings goals and spending patterns. It’s best to have these meetings at the end of each month. Talk about what you made, how much you spent, how much you saved, your progress towards your various goals, any adjustments you’d like to make to your goals, and budget estimates for the upcoming month.
This is also the perfect time to discuss big, upcoming purchases. Maybe you need to buy a plane ticket to visit family, or your partner is buying a pricey birthday gift for one of their siblings. Let the other know about those plans in advance so that neither of you are surprised during your next meeting!
Ask for Help When You Need It
Over the past few months, we’ve all been reminded just how difficult it can be to maintain a secure financial foundation. If you or your partner have been struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or if you’re worried that you may lose a source of income over the next few months, don’t hesitate to discuss where you can turn for help. Whether it’s time to think about moving in with a loved one or applying for assistance, you can lean on each other throughout this process, so it’s important to be open about your needs and concerns. If you know that you can’t tackle the other tasks on this list right now, it’s okay—the most important aspect of managing finances as a couple is open communication and honesty, and that’s completely free.
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