The ABCs of a financially happy marriage

Dear Dr Pesa,

I am a 25-year old recently married woman. I have realised that my husband and I tend to spend a lot of money and we are practically living beyond our means. I am also three months pregnant and I feel the need to sort out this money issues before the baby comes. Where do I begin?

Mercy.

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Dear Mercy,

Congratulations on your nuptials and pregnancy. It is good that you have noted the issue and are willing to solve it.  Here are the ABCs of a financially happy marriage:

1. Merge separate budgets

Make separate budgets. Each person should write their own budget on their own, then both of you get together and marry the budgets. The reason for this is that one person may be more aware of some expenses while the other focuses on others.

For example, the husband may not know much about household expenses while the wife does. Doing this, you will find some expenses that you have to remove and others that you need to increase. Make sure all expenses are included -- even entertainment. Make a realistic budget to prevent disagreements surrounding money later on.

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2. Joint accounts with separate kitties work best

There is nothing wrong with having either joint or separate accounts. However, what works best is to have a common joint account where both incomes go to and then each person has their own kitty for personal expenses.

The bulk of the money should be for the family as a whole and you should agree on what to do with it. Then each person can have a small allocation which they are allowed to cater to personal expenses, needs, basically to do whatever they wish with it.

It is easier to invest when you have your account set up like that, with a main account containing the bulk of both your incomes.

3. Schedule money meetings

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When doing financial planning, meet with some regularity. This could be once a month to look at your finances and see where your money is going.

Use these meetings to honestly assess your financial position. Do you have investments? Enough savings? Are you living above your means etc.

4. Calculate your joint net worth

You need to know how much you are both worth and you do this by subtracting your total debts (bank loans, Sacco loans M-shwari, etc) from your total assets.

Your net worth is your financial position. As you go on in life, you should be growing in net worth, so you should ideally calculate this every year.

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5. Have an emergency fund

You should have an amount of money that you can access quickly.

An emergency kitty is crucial because something unexpected can happen in the family. You do not want to have sell something or borrow, sometimes even from places that you should not be borrowing from, like shylocks.

The barest minimum you should have in your emergency fund should be an amount worth three months of your family expenses.

6. Save for the children from the word go

Your budget should cater for both the long- and short-term needs of the family. Always make sure that the big things are taken care of, such as home ownership, the children’s education and retirement.

People tend to overlook retirement, but when you do this, you will end up in a big house and cannot afford money for food and medicine and other small expense.

Likewise, money for the children’s primary and secondary school is not very worrisome and can be handled using current income, but you need to both save for the children’s higher education from the day they are born to ensure you give them a good education.

Expert source: Manyara Kirago, managing director of Financial Counseling 

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