I recently got married to the love of my life about 4.5 months ago. Our wedding day was beautiful. Our honeymoon was an adventure (booked partially on points earned from wedding expenses). Walking into marriage, I thought merging finances would be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong. My wife was finishing up her last quarter of college during our first 3 months of marriage. Therefore, we were primarily living off of my income with some money coming in from her part time job at Starbucks.
Step 1: The Name Change
The first step to merging finances is the name change. After all, there is no point in joining bank accounts if your wife plans on changing her name in the near future because then you’ll have to go into the bank again and fill out the necessary paperwork to change her name on the account. This means requesting copies of your marriage license to show/mail to each of the following organizations:
- State Licensing (DOL/DMV) – Driver’s License
- My wife was originally from California, much like myself, so she ended up just applying for a brand new license in the state of Washington. I’m not sure if the process would have been any different if she had just needed a name change. This process was rather painless except for the $100+ to get a new license.
- Social Security
- We went to the social security office, but encountered a long wait time. We ended up leaving and mailing the necessary documents in. It took about 3-4 weeks, but we received her new social security card in the mail. They also mailed back our marriage certificate. Some states require you to complete this step first before you apply for a new driver’s license.
- Passport Services
- The last major organization that we had to deal with was the US Passport Services. We mailed my wife’s current passport, passport renewal form, a copy of a marriage certificate, and those little passport pictures. We got her new passport back in roughly 5 weeks.
- Social Media
- Just kidding. This one is easy. Just go and edit your name in settings. No need to mail anyone your marriage license.
- Credit Cards, Banks, Frequent Flyer Accounts, Loyalty Programs, etc.
- All these other places that you have to change your name usually just require a photo copy of the marriage certificate. Some of these were easy to do. Other ones required a fair bit of leg work.
- I suggest getting 3-4 certified marriage licenses in case you don’t get them back after you apply. You should also request these as soon as possible because they can take a bit of time to receive. Plus you can mail them out all at the same time and not have to worry about waiting until you get the certified copy back.
- Sit down and do it all at once. It’s much less painful this way.
Once my wife got started on the name change process it probably took about 3 months in total to change most of her accounts. There are still a few that she’s been procrastinating on changing.
Step 2: Joining Finances
Not only do you physically have to merge finances, but you mentally have to think about it as our money. This was difficult at first. Don’t get me wrong I love my wife, but what I had to quickly realize was that I now had to loop her in on all of my financial decisions. Before we got married, I could just buy an iPad that was on sale for $400 that I planned to resell for $450 and not tell anyone. This mental adjustment took a few months to make especially when I saw a hot deal that I know might not last.
It wasn’t until January that we finally added my wife to my two of my bank accounts. I have two other bank accounts that I opened primarily for the sign up bonus (free money!). I also plan on adding my wife as an authorized user (AU) on one or two of my credit cards in the upcoming month.
Right now, my wife’s paychecks are all going into her credit union account. This is because the credit union offers a 2% interest rate on the first $10k. We will eventually get around to adding me to that account just so I can manage it more easily. Our goal is to live off of my salary for the next 4-5 years and save her salary for a down payment on a house.
Step 3: Managing, but not Controlling
I am an accountant so to say I enjoy managing finances might be an understatement. Balancing a budget is exciting. My wife on the other hand doesn’t enjoy reconciling her bank account or worrying about bills. At first, I figured it would be easy enough for me to manage and control all of our finances. However, I started to realize that I needed to involve my wife in the decision making processes. To accomplish this we sat down for a couple hours and reviewed all of our accounts, our budgeting goals, and other financial plans. Meeting and laying everything out on the table was helpful.
This is not an easy process and there were definitely some arguments along the way. We are still working on mentally and physically merging our finances, but I hope that our experience might help other newlywed couples facing similar challenges.