Getting married can be one of the most exciting times of your life. It can mean going to parties, meeting new family and friends and sometimes combining existing households. With so much going on, it's easy to lose sight of your financial goals. Here are seven financial tips to help you stay on track as you plan your new life together.
1. Determine short-and long-term goals.
Everyone has a different investment personality and approach. But no matter how much you want to be involved with making financial decisions, it's important you're both on the same page when it comes to your short- and long-term goals. Work with your financial advisor to identify your retirement goals, and establish investment strategies to help you achieve them together. Figure out how much you need to save and invest each month and set up a monthly budget and emergency savings plan to help you stay on track. Decide how you'll handle big purchases. Do you need to consult each other on purchases over a certain dollar amount?
2. Joint accounts, separate, or both?
Whether you're joining finances, keeping separate accounts or a combination of both, decide early on who will pay what – and from which account. Some families prefer to have one person control the monthly bills and budget, while others split the responsibilities. There's no one right way to do this, but it's important to have a plan in place so you know who's paying the mortgage, making car payments and covering other important expenses. Whatever path you choose, be sure you each keep a credit card in your name to maintain your individual credit histories.
3. Take inventory of your financial situation.
Review your credit reports to identify and correct errors, so there are no surprises when you make a large purchase together. Evaluate your medical plans to determine if one policy is more economical and comprehensive. Add your spouse and any dependents to your health insurance and cancel unnecessary policies as appropriate. If you have any outstanding loans, develop a plan to reduce or eliminate that debt. If you own a home and plan to live there for five or more years, consider refinancing if one or both of you have good credit scores. You should also make sure you both participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan ‒ at least enough to receive an employer match, if offered.
4. Don't wait until April to think about taxes.
Adjust your tax withholding on Form W-4 at your employer to reflect your new marital status. Ask your tax professional whether individual or joint tax filing status is more appropriate. If this isn't your first marriage, discuss your Social Security benefits with your tax professional. Your benefits may be impacted if you're under age 60 when you remarry. If one or both of you will be selling a home, look into potential tax consequences.
5. Get covered for life's "what ifs".
Work with an attorney to determine which of the following documents are appropriate: will, living will, durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney or trust. Update titles and re-register accounts and property to include rights of survivorship. Review life insurance policies and update beneficiaries and coverage to make sure you have an adequate amount. Discuss whether or not you want a prenuptial agreement, especially if either of you are bringing substantial assets or debts to the marriage or expecting a large inheritance.
6. Create your short list of professionals.
Select the financial advisor, tax professional and legal professionals you both want to work with. Having a dedicated team of professionals working for you can help ensure you stay on track to meet your short- and long-term goals.
7. Review, adjust when necessary, repeat.
Meet with your financial advisor annually, or more often, to review your strategy to make sure you're still on track to meet goals, and readjust if necessary. This includes reviewing beneficiaries of your IRAs, 401(k) plans, life insurance, annuities and other accounts. If you have younger children, discuss and update financial plans for their education.
How we can help
When you're getting married, there's a lot to think about. Your financial advisor can help guide you through the financial questions you'll face. Talk to us to help define your goals and make sure you both stick with the appropriate strategy to achieve them.
Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.