This last 4th of July weekend, my fiancé and I were married. After a 15-month engagement we were thrilled for the weekend to arrive. The 4-day affair was full of events and fun for out-of-towners – everything was spectacular (despite the rain).
After a few days in Northern Michigan to recover, we returned back to Detroit ready to take on the post wedding to-dos. There were the obvious ones, including: thank you notes, unwrapping gifts, sending my dress to the cleaners, etc. However, where we spent the most time was discussing and organizing our financial life. Every couple will handle things differently, but the questions to consider remain consistent. Below are the key questions I recommend all newlyweds to consider:
How do we want to handle our finances? Keep things separate or combined?
- Does one partner come to the marriage with debt? How do we want to handle the payments?
- Do we want to combine bank accounts and all finances?
- Do we want to consolidate credit cards? This especially makes sense if the couple decides to combine bank accounts and finances. Although credit cards come with perks and points, they also come with annual fees.
Does the bride want to change her name?
- While I have not done this yet, changing your name is not as easy as it sounds. Besides changing legal documents (social security card, driver’s license, passport), you also need to provide information to airlines, TSA PreCheck, banks, credit card companies, and insurance companies. It’s a hassle. Some friends have used online services such as Hitch Switch ($39 – $99) or Newly Named ($39 – $89) to make it a bit easier.
- Tip: Be sure to change your name AFTER you have booked travel plans. Airlines will not let you board a plane if the name on your license / passport does not match the name you booked the flight under.
Do we need an estate plan? The short answer is, yes. Keep in mind, estate plans are not just for death but also important in cases of medical emergency.
- Do we need to update beneficiaries on our retirement accounts? (Rather, do you remember who you’ve listed as the beneficiaries on your retirement account?)
- Do we need a will or a trust? While important for first marriages, this is especially critical in situations where spouses have children from outside the marriage.
- Should we have Medical Durable Powers of Attorney? In most cases, the standard forms are sufficient. You can find our easy-to-use templates on the Bloom Advisors website.
Does it make sense to transition to one employers’ insurance plan? Does one of your employers offer far superior insurance coverage / cost options than another?
What are our financial goals? It is critical to take the time to discuss your individual and joint financial goals (do we want to buy a house? have children? buy a second home?). Consider if you need to consult a financial advisor to set you up for success. Before choosing a financial advisor, be sure to understand how they are paid (especially if they’re incentivized by particular products) and how they will invest your money.
Should we have life insurance coverage? Life insurance is used to replace income in the event of death. If you rely on one of the spouse’s income, life insurance may be right for you.
How should we file our taxes – jointly or separately? For most people, jointly makes sense as you will get a larger standard deduction vs. filing separately. However, consult a tax professional to get a better sense of your situation.
Answering these questions might not be easy for every couple. However, it is critical to get started sooner than later. Know a newlywed? Share the list above to ensure they’re headed down a path towards happily ever after.