- Doing regular check-ins to talk money helps protect your financial future.
- Signing up to autosave a portion of your paychecks makes socking away cash easier.
- Reviewing credit card statements monthly can find costly errors.
- Eyeballing your investments helps ensure your retirement savings are on track.
You tied the knot—now what? While you’re setting up your life together, make sure you include a plan to track (and grow) your money.
Why is it key to think ahead about finances? “Most of our financial lives run on autopilot,” says Nick Bormann, a Certified Financial Planner in Spokane, Washington. But it can be on autopilot in a good way as long as you two talk through goals upfront and check in regularly to see if you need to make any adjustments.
“One great benefit couples have is a teammate who can double-check that everything is still on track,” Bormann notes. “But this only works if both people feel comfortable talking about their money.”
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a quick guide to the small steps you two should take each week, month and quarter to keep your finances in top shape.
Every week or two weeks …
Do a quick money check-in
It doesn’t have to be a long evening poring over spreadsheets. Instead, aim for one night every week or two where you turn off your phones, and chat about anything that is going on with your money at the moment. Maybe you want to talk through decisions about expenditures on the horizon—whether it’s something small like upgrading your Wi-Fi to something big like getting a new car.
Set up an automated saving and investing plan
This is essentially the “set it and forget it” approach to socking away money–and it works. “If you’re paid every two weeks, have an automatic draft go toward the joint nest egg before there is any chance to spend it,” Bormann says. “Good habits are easier to keep when you don’t have to think about them.”
Every month …
Do a standing money date
Pick a date and time, like the first Tuesday of the month after dinner, to chat about your money goals and review what’s going on with your finances. In a big-picture way, this will help you each get in the habit of talking openly about what you really want to do with your money—and also what is immediately concerning you.
If you keep a budget, use this time to check in on how it’s going and see if you need to make adjustments, such as cutting back your spending in one area. You want to come away from your date night knowing what your joint debts are and how things are going on the income front, says Laura Adams, host of the Money Girl podcast. “Talking through it and keeping up with it throughout the year helps make sure you don’t have any major financial surprises,” she says.
Find hidden money
It’s important to scan your credit card statements each month, because this can reveal mistakes to fix and recurring expenses you want out of your life. While you’re at it, eyeball your credit report too: One in four Americans have found errors on their credit reports, according to a study from the Federal Trade Commission.
When reviewing credit card statements, look for any recurring subscriptions you no longer want (for instance, a streaming fitness app you don’t use these days because you’ve joined a gym).
Also make sure there are no errors. “Worst case, there could be fraud or identity theft happening, but without good communication you might assume it was just the other person spending some extra money and not think to ask about it,” says Bormann.
Remember: Money found is money earned!
Every quarter …
Dare to ask the hard questions
Money issues can be incredibly stressful. And so it’s only natural to not get around to digging into them. The problem is that the anxiety doesn’t go away when you avoid the topic—in fact, it grows.
But creating a system where you know you’ll examine it all together at a regular interval can actually make it feel less scary. “If you can just put it on the calendar once a quarter and keep up with that conversation, it can really help,” Adams says.
A couple key questions she advises couples to ask themselves:
Do we have enough of an emergency fund?
Are we covering all our bases with the kids or other dependents, whether it’s for college tuition, tutors or health expenses?
Eyeball your retirement investments
While you don’t have to meet with a money advisor to discuss long-term accounts like investments for retirement more than once a year, it’s a good idea for you and your spouse to take a look at your accounts every three or four months.
“Couples should check that they’re on the same page for the amount of investment risk they’re comfortable with, and that their big-picture savings goals are on track,” says Bormann.
Fortunately, many institutions from Fidelity to Chase feature online tools like charts and graphs showing the balance of your investments so you two can gauge whether it’s still a comfortable mix. If anything looks off, you can schedule a call with your account advisor to discuss making adjustments that will help you and your partner feel more at peace with your portfolio.