For most newlyweds, money mergers and matters tend to take the backseat during the nuptial preparation. Planning a wedding takes a lot of time, focus, and energy, leaving the questions around joint finances to come into focus at a later time – typically post honeymoon. It’s then that newlyweds find themselves face to face with an onslaught of money questions, issues, to-dos, and uncertainty around what’s missing and where to begin. So how do you handle money after you’re married?
In efforts to quell the uneasiness, read on for an overview of steps to take, paperwork to complete, and items to consider in the days and weeks after (or before) your marriage to ensure your money house stays in tact:
Mr. and Mrs. ___: Although it’s not applicable to every new marriage, if there’s a name change taking place due to your nuptials, you’ll want to start by visiting (or calling) your county clerk to obtain a minimum of 3 official copies of your marriage certificate. This handy piece of paper will help you get the ball rolling on the lengthy process of updating your name in the universe, beginning with obtaining a new social security card (visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov for additional details). From there, you’ll visit your local DMV to update your driver’s license. Next, make a list of all the accounts/documents you’ll need to update including passports, employer information, insurance policies, voter registration, bills, bank accounts, etc. and begin to reach out to each company or department.
Taxes: Did you know you are able to file your taxes as “Married Filing Jointly” in the year that you’re married (and it applies to the whole year)? Reach out to your accountant or tax preparer to ensure this is the best step for you and your spouse and ask about updating your withholding elections. Work with your Human Resources department to make any necessary changes.
Money Mixtures: Although finances may not have been the hot topic pre-nuptials, hopefully you and your spouse are familiar with each other’s financial pictures. Money items to think about in the days ahead are if it makes sense to open a joint account, whether or not to maintain separate accounts, where paychecks will be deposited, and how your money will be managed. Sit down together to work out a detailed spending and savings plan to get yourselves started on the right track.
Assets & Debts: Work together to first build a list of your assets including checking, savings, Roth and Traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, personal investments, cash accounts, and property. Determine if there are any personal (non-retirement) accounts that you’d like to merge and discuss updating the titles on personal property. Take some time to review your investment allocations and make any necessary updates or changes based on your combined goals. Next take a look at your liabilities and make a list of any outstanding debts such a student loans, credit cards, mortgages, and car loans. Pay attention to the repayment schedule for each balance and prioritize based on balances with the highest interest rate being paid off first.
Insurance Needs: Combining insurance coverage will typically get you the best rate. For car insurance, pick the plan that will provide the best coverage for the lowest cost. If you’re switching health insurance, ensure your current doctors are available under the new plan and that you understand any changes to co-pays and coverage. When determining the amount of life insurance needed, consider the loss of income that would occur to you or your spouse should something happen to either of you along with any outstanding debts.
Beneficiary Update: If you’d like to update beneficiaries listed on retirement accounts and insurance policies to reflect your new spouse, contact your HR department or reach out to the appropriate companies directly to make necessary changes.
Estate Planning: Estate planning documents are some of the most important to have in place. Work to create a will that encompasses your combined (and separate) assets and wishes, along with Durable Power of Attorneys for finances and healthcare.
The above list won’t comprehensively answer all the financial concerns of newlyweds, but will serve as a starting point for discussion and working together. Be sure to consult your attorney, accountant, or financial planner along the way, and enjoy your time spent ensuring your new marriage begins on a financially sound path to success.