How to Manage Your Money in the First Year of Marriage

A financial therapist shares the secrets to monetary marital bliss.

couple in a living room illustration

photography by PHUONG NGUYEN


Los Angeles-based financial therapist Amanda Clayman believes that one’s relationship to finances is profoundly personal. “We often think of money as the domain of cold facts and rational decisions,” she says, “but the reality is that we use money to fuel what’s important to us, to align our values, relationships, and behavior.”

And there’s no better time to tackle these big topics than in your first year of marriage, when you and your partner are in the process of laying the groundwork for your financial future. Below, Clayman breaks down how to maintain financial wellness for newlyweds who want to lead successful, solvent lives.

Don’t assume that you and your partner are on the same page. “Everyone comes to a relationship with their own ideas about money,” says Clayman. “Most of these are rooted in the same belief system they had growing up. Your partner may think it’s about freedom and choices; you might think it’s all about safety and security. It’s okay if you both have a different point of view. At the end of day, you want to be able to enjoy the present but also enjoy the future.” 

Don’t assume that the way you and your partner manage your money at the beginning of the marriage is how it will always be. “Roles and responsibilities evolve over time,” says Clayman. “Children enter the picture. Your job or your partner’s job will change. It’s important to stay open-minded. Sometime you’re going to have to hand over control—and vice versa. You have to remember, ultimately, that you’re in this together. Rigid thinking like: ‘I don’t manage the money, that’s my spouse’s job’ can lead to blame down the line. Look at your partner as a resource—not as a boss. A healthy financial system is one where both people are participating. It’s equal, flexible and sustainable.”

Do talk about money. A lot. “It’s a mistake to keep money private,” says Clayman. “You don’t have to open a joint checking account, but there always should be communication and transparency. You don’t have to count pennies every day, but you do have to sit down on a monthly basis and review what’s there. The goal is to talk about the big picture, where you want your money to go, and how you want to prepare for the future. Schedule a monthly money date to sit down and go over your accounts together. Too often couples wait to talk about money until there is a crisis. That’s what you want to avoid. Money doesn’t always have to be a source of stress.”

Don’t be scared to be an adult. Sounds obvious, right? Not so much, according to Clayman. “I say to clients all the time that a normal part about being an adult is managing money,” she says. “Adulting is being a competent, mature, directed, quasi self-regulated human being who acts deliberately and with intention and is not just reactive toward everything. And remember: No one is financially perfect. There is no road map here. We all come to relationships with our distortions when it comes to money.”

Related reading:
How a Creative Couple Combined Their Homes After Marriage
What It’s Like to Live on the Road as Newlyweds
How to Make the Perfect Grain Bowl

Published on September 13, 2017 - 9:00am EDT

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