Financial Planning Checklist for Couples
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My wife and I started dating in high school and we both had minimal financial knowledge or savings. We had to learn how to manage our money as we grew up together and experienced life.

College, marriage, honeymoon, mortgage, and cars all became challenges that we had to overcome together. Luckily for us, we were able to communicate openly and managed to feel our way through some of the tougher times.

No matter if you are dating or married, there are questions you discuss to get on the same page. Talk about your financial history, your goals for the future, and how you plan to get there.

Here is a checklist you can use to make sure you are communicating and planning with your significant other.

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Talk About Your History

When you start dating, it can be awkward to ask too much about your date’s financial situation. If you are serious about staying with them long-term, you’ll want to start asking a few questions to get to know them better.

As you look to get engaged and married, make sure you are comfortable with talking about money. It should be a topic that you both feel able to talk about, no matter if it is good or bad. Debt can be a tough topic for many people, so be supportive and understanding with your partner.

Understanding your partner’s financial background can help you better prepare for the future. Knowing about debt and income levels makes it easier to come up with a plan to improve your wealth in the future.

To get you started with talking with your partner about your financial history, here are some questions.

Financial Questions to Ask Your Partner

  • How much money do you make per year? Do you have any supplemental income?
  • How much do you pay in rent? Do you have a mortgage?
  • Are you contributing towards a retirement account, like a 401(k) or IRA?
  • Do you have student loans?
  • How about credit card debt? Have you ever carried a balance?
  • What is your credit score?
  • Do you have a car loan? How reliable is your car?
  • Do you have any other debt or loans?
  • Have you saved up an emergency savings fund? How much?
  • How much money do you have in other savings?
  • Do you have any investments? When did you start investing?
  • Do you know your net worth? How do you track it?
  • Have you had any medical emergencies or chronic illnesses?
  • What are your spending habits? How do you like to have fun?

As you are going through your finances together, it is helpful to write down actual numbers to better understand the details. Adding up your full amount of income, debt, and expenses will help to show your financial strengths and pitfalls.

Set Your Future Goals Together

Now that you have a better understanding of both of your finances, you’ll want to start planning for your future together. Come up with both individual and mutual goals that you want to achieve.

These should include the big things, like having children and retiring together. On top of that, you should also think about your individual goals and how they play into your family’s plan.

Training for a marathon not only takes time but the race entries could get expensive. Share these personal goals with your spouse so that you can plan together for them.

Here are some ideas for goals that you may want to set as a couple.

Financial Goals for Couples

  • Do you want to do any more education? College, post-grad, or certifications?
  • What type of wedding do you want and how much are we willing to pay?
  • Where do we want to go on a honeymoon?
  • Where do we want to live? Buy a house or rent?
  • Do we need to replace our cars? How much do we need to commute?
  • What are our career goals? Do we want to start a business or work a job?
  • Do we want to have children? How many?
  • Do we want pets? What kind and how many?
  • How much do we need for an emergency fund?
  • When do we want to retire? At age 65 or earlier?
  • What would we do if we were able to retire early?
  • What do we want to do for entertainment? Vacations? Travel?
  • What does our daily life look like? How much do we eat out or go shopping?
  • How much debt are we comfortable with? Is there good debt?
  • Do we want to donate to charity?
  • Are there significant investments we want to make, like a vacation house?
  • How much risk are we willing to take?

Create a Plan to Reach Your Goals

After you have your list of goals as a couple, come up with a plan to reach them. Without a plan, you will end up making less progress and it will take much longer to reach your goals. Don’t waste your time spinning your wheels and come up with an actionable plan.

Of course, the plan you create should be something that both you and your partner agree on. Both of you should be willing and able to contribute to your plan. You are stronger together as a couple, so commit to working together towards your goals.

Here are some questions to ask when you are trying to put together a plan to reach your goals.

Financial Planning for Couples

  • How will we combine our finances? Joint accounts or split bills?
  • Who will primarily manage our money?
  • Do we need a prenup before getting married?
  • How much risk are we comfortable with in our investments?
  • What level of cash do we need on hand vs. being tied up in investments?
  • What is our timeline for our goals?
  • How will we monitor our progress and make sure we are on track? Do we know our net worth?
  • What is our monthly budget?
  • Do we need to increase our income level? Should we look for a new job or find a side hustle?
  • What is our rate of savings and are we saving enough?
  • How much money do we need to retire and maintain our lifestyle?
  • How do we avoid lifestyle creep?
  • What steps will we take to reduce our debt?
  • Do we know enough about personal finances, investing, and saving?
  • How will we protect our children and family? Do we have enough insurance to cover unexpected events?
  • How should we use our credit cards?

By answering these questions, you will better understand the specific steps you should take to reach your goals.

Tracking Personal Finance Metrics

Metrics allow you to measure and track performance over time. Without them, you would be blindly guessing how well you are doing and not know your actual progress. As management thinker Peter Drucker said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.

Even if you don’t like numbers and math, there are a few critical metrics that you should be tracking for your personal finances. These are the key numbers that will show you how well you are doing over time. While you can compare these to other people, it is more meaningful to see if your metrics improve with age.

If they are trending in the wrong direction, you will be able to make corrections to get you back on track. Many of these metrics will give you insight into where you may be struggling and how you can improve your financial performance.

Here are the top personal finance metrics that you should look to track on a monthly and annual basis.

Personal Finance Metrics for Couples

  • Gross income (pre-tax)
  • Net income (post-tax and retirement contributions)
  • Supplemental income, including passive income and side hustles
  • Retirement contributions
  • Basic expenses, like housing, food, and utilities
  • Discretionary spending, like entertainment and travel
  • Total assets, such as savings accounts, investments, and home equity
  • Total liabilities, or debt
  • Net worth, which is assets minus liabilities
  • Savings rate
  • Liquid capital for emergencies
  • Financial Independence (FI) number, which is how much you need to retire
  • Years to reach FI or other financial goals
  • Investment portfolio allocation
  • Investment performance and rate-of-return
  • Fees on investments and interest rates

Quick plug for using Personal Capital to track your metrics for you. Personal Capital is a free app that automatically tracks all of your income and expenses in real-time. This lets you set up a monthly budget and track your net worth to make sure you are reaching your goals.

Check out my review of how I used Personal Capital to grow our net worth.

Putting It Into Action

Open and honest communication with your partner is one of the keys to success to reaching financial freedom together. No matter if you want to save for a new house or retire early, you need to be on the same page.

Start by talking about where you both stand financially and what your individual goals are. Make sure you understand how much debt you owe and how it is structured. Get a good handle on your income and where you are spending money.

Once you feel comfortable with where you stand currently, come up with your goals for the future. This should be both short-term goals for the next couple of years, and your long-term retirement goals. Then, figure out how you will get to that point.

No two couples will reach their financial goals the same exact way. Everyone has slightly different backgrounds, starting points, and income levels. Timelines can change based on different life events. This is completely ok and just remember to stick to your own plan.

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