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No one gets married by their accountant. And when love is in your eyes, opening a joint checking account is the furthest thing from your mind. But consider this – the lack of a financial plan can become a major cause of marital stress. Our advice is to open a dialogue with your partner and settle financial matters before they ever become issues.
Spend some time together discussing how you each use and view money and what your financial goals are. With conflict about money cited as one of the major factors leading to divorce, you and your fiancée should be planning your financial strategy long before your ceremony. Many experts recommend newlyweds not merge all their money from the start. It enables both partners to maintain an independent credit rating. Instead, merge it slowly over time as your trust and knowledge of your partner increases.
Joint accounts can prove handy for taking care of shared expenses, like the rent or mortgage, even just the groceries.
Consider these questions as a way to start the ball rolling:
You can include your spouse as a co-applicant on your credit card simply by you and your spouse applying for a joint credit card*. Stop by VBSFCU and fill out the VISA application. Each spouse may also want to consider whether to keep one or more credit cards in his or her own name to maintain an independent credit rating.
*You both must qualify
Divide financial tasks so both of you are clear on who’s doing what, but keep each other informed of what is going on. Olivia Mellan, a Washington D.C. psychotherapist specializing in money conflict resolution, says that 80% of the time, women pay the bills and handle the budgeting, while only 12% of women are involved in investment and tax planning. It’s important to trade responsibilities regularly, or at least give each other frequent updates, so that each of you understands the “other side.” Work on making your financial decisions together. It’s never too early to begin saving for retirement. Discuss your retirement dreams and financial expectations. Develop common goals and timelines, so that you can begin to invest appropriately.
Be sure that you both maintain credit in your own names. Having your own line of credit is particularly important if you decide to start your own business or if you become widowed or divorced. Don’t forget to update your beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement accounts. If you’re changing your name, be sure to file the change with the Social Security Administration and Department of Motor Vehicles. Also, notify your credit union and creditors.
If you and your spouse work and have employer-sponsored health insurance, you should review, and possibly integrate, your coverage after marriage. Compare monthly premiums, deductibles, co-payments for routine and emergency care, participating doctors and hospitals, and additional coverage provided, including dental, vision care and prescription drugs, before making any decisions.
Names and/or addresses on important accounts and documents to ensure accuracy such as:
You should each review your wills and be sure that they reflect your new marital status. If you don’t have a will, it is time to create one.
Review retirement plans and change beneficiary designations as necessary.
Look at the title for property you own, as well as establish a plan for future purchases, such as a home. Keep in mind you and your new spouse can take advantage of your unified purchasing power.
Consider a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that specifies the assets a couple brings to a marriage. It indicates which assets will remain individual and which become joint property, to what degree future assets will be shared or kept separate after the marriage, and how assets should be disposed upon death.
You will have to decide whether to file your income taxes jointly or separately. If you or your spouse does not have earned income, consider changing the number of deductions on your W-4. Learn more about tax-efficient investing.
If you have insurance, getting married is an important time to review your life insurance beneficiaries. If you don’t have life insurance, you should consider acquiring some to reflect your increased responsibilities.
The information above is general suggestions. Please contact your financial planner for a specific consultation.