This is our fifth article in a 5-part series on Building Healthy Family Finances.

It’s not unusual for one partner to handle paying bills and the other to manage savings and investments.  While there isn’t anything wrong with a division of responsibilities, slipping into comfortable routines without periodic check-ins can provide a false sense of security.  Although many couples have gotten years into their relationship without taking a closer look at the financial structure on which they are building their lives, it’s never too late to assess their current situation and create a plan for moving forward. 

There are many facts both partners should be aware of and documents they should be able to access. 

Here’s a starter list of items established couples should discuss, and new couples can look to for inspiration when creating a plan:

  • How much money do we have?  In checking?  In savings?
  • What are our debts?
  • Do we have an emergency fund, which both partners have access to, that can cover three to six months of the family’s total overhead expenses?
  • How are our assets titled?
  • What are the logins and passwords for accounts?
  • Where are the important documents for accounts such as savings, investments, retirement, marital assets, and trusts?  Vital records such as birth certificates and marriage certificates should be accessible.
  • How are we saving for college costs?  Retirement?   
  • What plans are in place if one partner gets sick? 
  • Do we have signed living wills and health care proxies?
  • Does either partner have a life insurance policy?  Who is the beneficiary?
  • Who is our insurance agent?  Our accountant?  Our financial advisor?  How do I contact them?

It’s tempting to let the status quo remain if you’ve routinely done things in a certain way and feel comfortable with the results.  However, if you’ve always let your partner handle the bills or take care of the big picture money management, you might one day be surprised to learn that you had been making assumptions that were not based in fact.  Asking questions and openly discussing the details that go into creating a healthy financial structure can be one of the best ways to show your partner how much you care about your life together.  If you’d like to know more about how a financial advisor can help you create a plan, please contact us.