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6 Important Money Moves to Make Before Getting Married

By: David Bach  |  Last Updated: October 1, 2020
Financial Expert & 10x New York Times Bestseller
IN THIS ARTICLE1. Talk about money early and transparently
2. Automatically save 10% of your income
3. Make a plan to tackle debt together
4. Invest in an abundant future
5. Boost your travel budget with rewards
6. Build your dreams together and live them now

More than half of divorced individuals, 55%, cite financial problems as a major reason for divorce. That’s according to a 2013 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study. While we can’t always avoid financial problems, prioritizing money conversations and establishing short- and long-term goals with your partner is one key to a long and healthy marriage.

What often gets in the way, though, is the discomfort of talking about money. But the sooner you and your partner start working together, the sooner you’ll improve your financial picture — and the less stress you’ll face in the future. 

That’s why my book, “Smart Couples Finish Rich,” takes a deep dive into how couples can manage money as a team.

Like anything else that has to do with money, the steps you take now can make life a lot easier later on. Here are six steps every couple should take before walking down the aisle.

1. Talk about money early and transparently

Smart couples talk about money and work on their finances together. These money conversations are crucial, and they’re easier to have if you get everything organized. Even if you choose to have separate financial accounts, having a snapshot of everything going on in both of your financial lives is helpful. 

You can do this by creating a free account with Personal Capital, which allows you to connect all of your accounts and monitor them in one place. Use this snapshot as a jumping-off point to understanding your partner’s financial background, money goals and how they feel about the importance of money in their life.

The next step is to get specific about how you’ll organize your finances and who’s responsible for what. Don’t assume that you’re both on the same page.

2. Automatically save 10% of your income

“Pay yourself first” is the drum I’ve been beating in every book I’ve written over the last decade, yet the lesson never goes out of style. You and your partner need to automatically put 10% of your pre-tax income into a pre-tax retirement account.

If you’re not comfortable making a 10% contribution right away, it’s better to start small than not start at all. In fact, I started my own savings plan by setting aside only 1% of my income, and gradually moved it up to 20%. 

Once you’ve decided on a realistic savings rate, make it automatic — meaning, have that percentage go straight from your paycheck or checking account to your savings account every month, so you never even see that money. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to live on less when the money isn’t accessible.

A workplace retirement plan can help you pay yourself first automatically via a payroll deduction. For other investment accounts, like a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, you’ll need to set up automatic transfers yourself. 

If your employer doesn’t offer a pre-tax retirement account like a 401(k), you can set one up easily at one of the online brokerages I recommend.

3. Make a plan to tackle debt together

Credit card debt can destroy a marriage. If your partner has a lot of credit card debt before you get married, encourage them to pay it down as soon as possible. Another option is creating a plan to repay debt together. 

Trust me when I say, you’ll be a lot happier (and wealthier) if you make a plan to destroy debt together and commit to building a debt-free future. 

Check out the steps I put together to get out of credit card debt.

Also, talk about credit scores early on in your relationship — NOT just before you’re about to make a major purchase, like a home. You don’t want to get rejected by a mortgage company because one of you has bad credit. Start by checking your credit scores, which you can do as often as you want through free sites like Credit Karma.

Whatever you do, don’t let marital debt linger. Pay it off and make a pact to avoid consumer debt like the plague that it is.

4. Invest in an abundant future

Avoiding debt will keep you from going downward on the wealth escalator, but it won’t necessarily help you go upward. There are two primary “up escalators” to building wealth: owning stocks and owning real estate. If you don’t invest in the stock market or in real estate, it’s going to be hard to create lasting wealth.  

So, where should you and your partner invest together? Start here:

  • Buy a home. Start with my First-Time Homebuyer Challenge!
  • Invest in “fractional” real estate. Sites like Fundrise let you spread your investments across multiple real estate properties alongside other investors. Plus, you’ll never have to be a landlord!
  • Open a traditional IRA or Roth IRA with an online brokerage firm and automate your contributions so you’ll never forget to contribute.
  • Invest in the markets through a low-cost, automated online platform.

5. Boost your travel budget with rewards

Taking advantage of credit card travel rewards is a strategy that millions of people use to live rich right now. If managed properly, credit cards are NOT evil. In fact, when you use a top credit card for your regular monthly spending and pay the balance off in full each month, you’ll earn points on your everyday spending. These rewards can sometimes equal a better return than  savings accounts today.

Whether you’re planning a honeymoon to some far-flung destination or exploring the world during your first years of marriage, rewards can help you travel for free.

There are some pretty remarkable credit card offers right now. I personally opened three new cards this past year to take advantage of bonus offers. These rewards and offers allow me to travel at least two weeks out of the year for free.

I’d start with American Express if you don’t carry their rewards credit card yet. They have great cards and great service — and in many cases, up to a 50,000 welcome bonus offer.

My warning on using travel credit cards: Only use your cards for purchases you can afford to repay and ALWAYS pay your bill in full every month. No exceptions!

6. Build your dreams together and live them now

Dreaming isn’t just for kids. We all only have one life and we all deserve to dream. Dreams can have a motivating and clarifying effect. I know if you and your partner really want a dream to come true, you’ll make the changes needed to get there.

Right now, I’m living in Florence, Italy, because that’s what I wanted to do after I finished my latest book, “The Latte Factor.”

What do you and your partner want that’s totally fun, totally crazy and totally outrageous? Do you want to travel around the world? Go wine-tasting in Tuscany? Swim with dolphins in Hawaii? Build your dream home with that dream kitchen?

You can start your “dream basket” and fund it a little bit at a time, automatically. Open a high-yield savings account for this money and start saving today. Aim to set aside 3% of your after-tax income — and remember, don’t short-change your dreams. Live rich today.

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