With so many of my friends getting married these past couple of years I have found it interesting to talk to them about how they’re combining their finances and what they’re doing with their money as newlyweds. All of the options after the wedding seem relatively grown-up. Some have bought a house? Some have started saving for future children down the line? Some have decided to use their money to travel? Some are combining everything and some are keeping separate accounts?
After reading online and doing a little research I have found some advice that is most common across the board on the conversations that can help establish a secure and happy future. Here is what I have learned.
1) Figure out your benefits.
The first thing you need to do is to work out your insurance. Does it make more financial sense for one of you to enroll in the other’s health insurance program, or is it cheaper to remain on your own plans? Then, update your beneficiaries. Check your retirement plan, your insurance plans, and any other accounts, and make sure that your spouse is your beneficiary.
2) Get your estate in order
You need to complete a will, a power of attorney form, a healthcare power of attorney form, and a living will.
3) Combine finances
This is the part where after talking to my friends and reading online I have found conflicting information. If you decide to not combine all of your accounts at least set up a joint account. Pay into that joint account in proportion to how much money you make—so if you make twice as much as your husband, contribute twice as much to the joint account.
4) Talk about your money goals
Setting up specific savings accounts to move toward your goals. If you have kids, you could consider contributing to a college education. Or if you want to buy a house set up an account for a 20% down payment.
5) Credit cards: If you and your spouse have multiple credit cards, make a list of which cards have the best terms — cash back or travel points and no annual fees.
6) Build an Emergency Fund– If you don’t already have an emergency fund, consider making this a top priority. An emergency fund is money that is set aside in case something expensive happens unexpectedly, such as a lost job, family illness, natural disaster, or a major home repair. Aim to save about 6 months’ worth of your household expenses in case the emergency is that you have no income.
7) Make sure you’re clear on your tax situation
It will make financial sense for most couples to file jointly, but the “marriage penalty” sometimes kicks in if each spouse makes a vastly different amount of money.