Marriage financial planning should include an annual State of Your Financial Union date night – I guide you through how, with financial questions for married couples.
You may or may not whip out the popcorn bucket each year to watch the president of the United States give their State of the Union address.
But what you should DEFINITELY be interested in? Is the state of your OWN financial union.
Newsflash: if you’re in a relationship with someone, then you are in a financial union with them.
Whether you’ve decided to combine finances with your partner, or not, you are connected financially to the person you’re living with (what changes when you get married financially, anyway?).
I’ve discussed this in length before, but the cliff notes are:
- The bills they’re able to pay or not able to pay directly affect YOUR living costs.
- Their credit score is important if you ever choose to get a loan out together.
- Any financial obligations they have will decrease the amount of money they’re able to put into the household (and vice versa).
I’ve never shared this before, but one of the tools we use in our own marriage financial planning is what I like to call the annual State of Our Financial Union date night.
Today I want to go through how we turn this “address” into an actual date night, what we cover, and how to set up your own (fabulous for people who have been married for years — like us — or great financial planning for newly married couples!).
But first up? Let me give this at home date night for married couples some context by giving you two pieces of solid, best financial advice for married couples.
Psst: stick around for your married financial planning worksheets that will help with your financial future — you won't be sorry!
Financial Advice for Married Couples – Awareness + Fun are KEY in your Finances
An annual checkup on your financial life together is one of the best ways I can think of to stay on the same page about money, iron out money arguments that may or may not have surfaced yet, and get moving in the right direction.
But BEFORE we dive into the how of it? I want to make sure you know that dealing with a limited resource between two people in a way that DOESN’T make you want to flee the coop is all about raising awareness in BOTH people, and keeping things fun.
That’s right, money meetings with your partner can be FUN.
Let me explain.
My husband, Paul, and I sit down once a year to do an annual review of our overall money situation.
Sounds kinda boring, right?
Don’t worry – it’s not all numbers and passive-aggressive arguments about each other's spending habits. More so, it’s informational, inclusive, gives us a great outlook on our numbers, and we call it a Money Quickie.
That’s because afterwards? We slide right into a juicy date night.
That’s right – going over your annual numbers can ACTUALLY be FUN.
Stick with me, and I’ll show you how to ratchet up the fun vibe while downplaying the white-knuckling conversations.
But, that’s only half the equation.
The other half of getting your financial shiz together as a couple is being aware of what’s going on.
But many people – my husband, partly, included – like to keep their heads in the sand.
And I get it. Finances can be scary. Or complicated. Even confusing, and probably a bit of all three.
Since being aware of what’s going on financially is SO important, and people don’t necessarily know how important this is, I like to include a quiz as prep work for us to do before our date night.
I promise you it’s not a quiz that you either fail or sail through. And it can actually be fun, when you see how far off you are on the numbers. But more than that? It raises awareness about HOW much or little each of you know about your financial situation. And that is the start to financial success.
I've got an easy, fun way for you to organize your digits for the big night right here:
You’ll be surprised, and maybe even have a few laughs (okay…it’s possible you’ll shed a tear or two, as well – but you can’t change anything when you have no idea something’s wrong with it, right?) at how dead wrong one of you is about things like what your net worth is, how much debt you’re in, and how many months your emergency fund will currently keep your household afloat.
Awareness, awareness, awareness.
Financial Questions for Married Couples — What You’ll Go Over
During your annual State of Your Union date night, you’re going to get a great snapshot of how the overall household finances are going. Which is super helpful in the personal financial planning process.
One person will be in charge of getting all the following money digits together, so that you know what the current financial situation looks like (don’t worry – it doesn’t always have to be one person’s job; we’ll dive into money roles in a minute).
You want to look over your following money digits (be unbiased here, and report what you see!):
- Your Net Worth, Compared with Last Year’s: You want a snapshot of your net worth (why it might be important to track your net worth), and then also to see how it compares to one year ago. Don’t worry if you don’t have last year’s numbers – spend the 20 minutes or so to set up your net worth in a free tracker, like Personal Capital’s net worth tracker (that’s the one we use, and one of my favorite financial resources). Then anytime you want it, you can get your net worth numbers.
- Your Credit Score: Do you have a credit card that tells you your credit score for free? Ours does. If not, you can use a free service like Credit Sesame to get your credit score (Credit Sesame uses the VantageScore instead of FICO, and it will still give you a good snapshot of where each of your credit health is at).
- Annual Portfolio Fees: How much are you paying in investment fees? A few hundred dollars per year may not SEEM like much right now, but over time, it can really eat away at your retirement funds (which is why you should keep your eye on it). I’m talking across all your investments – your entire retirement and non-retirement portfolio. The easiest way I know to get this number is by going to Personal Capital. After you input all your account information, they’ll automatically track not only what you pay OVERALL in portfolio fees, but also they will break down for you what each FUND is costing you in fees. It’s pretty sweet, and completely free. Here's how to DIY a portfolio checkup.
- How Long Your Current Emergency Fund Will Last: Instead of just knowing how much is in the emergency fund, it’s best to translate that amount into how many months you’d survive in the event of having to live off of it. Because in the end, that’s what really matters, right? Psst: is this number really low? You'll want to make sure your insurance policies have enough coverage.
- Changes in Property Taxes: How much are your property taxes costing you this year, and how much did they cost 2-3 years ago? Look for your home financial statement where you pay your mortgage.
- Your Housing Costs in Proportion to Income: What percentage of your total cash flow goes towards your housing costs? Is it in line with industry standards (“industry standards” really meaning are you house poor, or not)?
But putting together your money digits is not the only really important prep work that goes into this night; it’s also important to know who is currently taking responsibility of different money categories, which money roles have slipped through the cracks, and who is going to take responsibility of each category moving forward.
Because you gotta work together as a team when managing finances together, okay? Use each other’s strengths, and make up for each other’s weaknesses – that’s part of the benefit of being a couple rather than being single when it comes to financial management.
Financial Planning Questions for Couples – Beyond the Numbers
Here’s something I would like to shout from the rooftops (but since I’m a blogger? I’ll write about it, then do a cute call out, instead):
Finances and financial planning are not all about the numbers. Not even close!
I don't know that financial experts talk about this enough, but money is such an emotional topic for people. And when you introduce more than one person to the equation of trying to figure out how to use a limited resource? Well, that's a situation ripe for arguments.
That’s why you’ll need to answer questions during your date night (and in prep to it) that go well beyond actual numbers.
- Who is Maverick and Who is Goose?: I’m talking about who takes the lead and who is in the co-pilot seat on various financial roles in the household. Like, who takes care of bill payment, and who does tax preparation? Who shops for insurance quotes, and who manages all those important financial documents you didn’t end up recycling during your Konmari papers cleanout? It should be noted that one person takes the lead, but the other person still needs to be informed + play a supporting role.
- What are Each of Your Money Values and Financial Priorities?: Money is a means for us to express our values as human beings. It’s not the only means, but it’s one of the stronger ones. So, it’s important to know what each of you guys value, and then decide on some couple money values – that way figuring out how to spend your money and save it will be easier to do.
- What Does Your Money Blueprint Look Like? And Your Partner’s?: Each of you have a money blueprint, and it likely looks very different from one another. However, knowing more about each other’s money blueprints can help SO much in understanding why you’re each making the financial decisions and have the money values/limiting beliefs that you do.
- How Do You Feel about SAHP: Does one or both of you feel strongly about there being a stay at home parent? How can you make this happen – what would need to change about your current finances and how you’re managing your resources? How to get better at managing your finances?
You might be thinking it’s going well, but your partner may have some issues they’d like to bring up (we’ve had financial friction in our own marriage, but working through these marriage money issues has only made our union – financial and otherwise – much stronger).
Marriage Financial Planning Tool – How to Set Up an Annual State of Your Union Date Night
Pick a night when you’ll do the date (give your partner a few nights up to a week to get their prep-work done).
You’ll want to do the following in prep:
- Fill in the State of Your Financial Union Printable: Have the person who takes the lead in finances fill in the One-Page State of Your Financial Union printable.
- Each of You Fill Out the Questionnaire + Money Values Printable: You’ll each need to fill out the questionnaire + Money Values printable before the date night starts. This will help you both realize your awareness level about your finances, as well as learn more about each other’s money values and why you’re each making the decisions you are.
- Consider Doing a Money Icebreaker: Start with the money conversation ice breaker to have a bit of fun when talking about money and “break the ice” about the subject (specifically helpful if you and your partner don’t really talk about finances – not to mention you’ll learn a good bit about each other’s money values!).
- Choose an Activity to Pair with Your Money Date Night: You’ll want to see some suggestions below for how to pick out a fun activity for after your State of Your Financial Union Address.
Now it’s time to actually do the State of Your Financial Union Date Night!
Here are your goals and objectives:
- Give the State of Your Financial Union Address: You’ll want to choose one person to read out loud all the different parts filled out in the printable.
- Discuss the Prep Work: Were there any numbers on the sheet that surprised either of you? Talk about the money values you each chose as your top 3. How do these affect your decision-making when spending money?
- Pick Out Money Roles: Go through the Maverick and Goose Money Roles printable and pick out who will do what moving forward.
- Figure Out Action Steps: See below for more info – issues and opportunities will likely surface after you see everything laid out before you. And you might even have some financial goals now that you've gone through everything. I’ve got ideas for what to do to move forward in your couple’s financial management.
- Go on Your After-Date: After all the “work” is done, relieve some stress and extend the fun by doing the activity you chose from below.
You’ll also need to choose a date night activity for after the big State of Your Financial Union is finished. This adds a whole element of fun (plus a de-stressor at the end) to it!
At-Home Date Night Ideas:
- Watch a money-related movie – such as The Money Pit, Indecent Proposal, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Wall Street, The Big Short, Margin Call, etc.
- Try out a Date-Night-in-a-Box Service (my datebox reviews are here) for some really cool, no-prep, at-home date nights!
- Choose from these 37 at-home date nights my husband and I have done (tv-free).
- 11 free online marriage counselling courses.
What to Do with All this Information – Action Steps for Couples and Money
Awareness is the biggie here + infusing some fun around the subject of money when communicating with your partner.
You’ll get both of those by going through this date night.
But after that? What are you supposed to do with all this information you dug up?
You want to start putting together your couple's financial plan. Here are some action steps to take from things and financial needs you might have discovered while going through the State of Your Financial Union Date Night.
- Spread Out the Money Roles: Did you find that one of you takes on wayyyy too many money roles, while the other person has their head in the sand? Now’s the time to redistribute. Use each other’s strengths, and make up for each other’s weaknesses – that’s one of the benefits of couples and money. Start by offloading one task at a time to the other person. Then, when they’re more comfortable, give them a new one!
- Fight Your Property Tax Appraisal: Our annual State of our Financial Union date night made me aware that our home’s appraised market value has gone up over 18% in just a few years. Talk about a property tax increase! Here’s how we DIY fought our own property taxes for a savings of $612, after becoming aware they were creeping up.
- Move/Roll Over a Retirement Account that’s been Left Behind: If you find out that you’re paying more than you’d like to in retirement fees (general guidance is to not be paying more than 1% each year; we pay 0.5%), then it might be in your best interest to roll over your old 401(k)s from an ex-employer to a new IRA account, or to move brokerage firms.
- Sign Up for an Online Financial Dashboard: Didn’t sign up for something like Personal Capital yet? It’s a great time to actually aggregate all your financial accounts – credit card accounts, savings/checking accounts, mortgage account, retirement accounts, etc. – into one dashboard where you can get quick snapshots of where your finances are, growth, setbacks, fees, etc.
- Divert Money into Emergency Savings: If you found your emergency savings fund is pretty anemic, then it’s time to dedicate cash flow to building it back up. Don’t worry – building an emergency savings fund is not as annoying as you’d think.
- Schedule More Money Quickies: Did you figure out that you should actually sit down to talk about money more often? I challenge you to set up a monthly Money Quickie so that the two of you can get together and talk about the state of your finances. Don’t forget to add the fun in where you can. Here are the financial discussion rules of engagement in our household.
- Shop Around for Insurance: If it’s been a few years since you looked at your insurance options (and you found out your insurance has skyrocketed), then put it in your calendar to shop around.
- Set Up A Big Expense Savings Account: If you do the life walkabout in the printable and find out you’ve got some major things that need to be repaired/replaced in the next three years, then you’ll want to figure out how much to set aside each month into a savings account so that the cash will be on hand. This can also be used for financial goals.
- Look at Income and Expenses: Do you need to earn more? To spend less? Can you do both, and reap the accelerated benefits? Financial planning and budgeting go hand-in-hand. Now might be a great time to go through the budgeting process.
Pssst: you might want to check out my review of the best couple's budgeting apps.
There you have it – you can now set up your own State of Your Financial Union date night. Just imagine the clarity you’re going to get around your finances, plus some new financial skills and tools to help with managing your money together BETTER (read: less arguments, less financial dishonesty, more efficiencies, and playing up each other’s strengths).
And don't forget — do this annually. After all, it's amazing how much life changes (including your financial health) in just 365 days!