Newlyweds—How to Start off on a Sound Financial Footing
Traditionally, married couples agree to take their mates “for richer or for poorer.” The California Society of CPAs says that newlyweds can increase their chance of making it “for richer” by devoting sufficient time to discussing the many aspects of their financial life. Here are 10 important topics you and your new spouse should address.
Discussion Topic No. 1: Values
How do you feel about money? Are you a spender or a saver? The more you understand about your partner’s values and attitudes concerning money, the easier it will be to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.
Discussion Topic No. 2: Money Management
Decide who will have the primary responsibility for managing money, paying the bills, and balancing the checkbook. If you’re a dual-earning couple, one of the first important decisions you’ll need to make is whether you will maintain separate accounts or pool your income. Do whatever works best for you, but keep in mind that, generally, it’s easier to manage household expenses from one joint account.
Discussion Topic No. 3: Savings
Your first priority as a couple should be to set up an emergency fund equal to three to six months of earnings. Keep this cash in a bank savings account or money market account you can access quickly. Once your safety net is in place, continue a plan for regular saving, striving to save at least 10 percent of your income. Automating your savings program is a great way to ensure that you don’t stray from your savings goals. Arrange to have a preset amount each month transferred to a mutual fund or similar investment.
Discussion Topic No. 4: Insurance
Increased health care costs make it more important than ever to coordinate or consolidate health insurance so that you’re not paying for duplicate coverage. Review each spouse’s health insurance plan and compare coverage and costs to determine which plan best suits your needs and finances.
Look at your life insurance as well to determine whether you have adequate coverage. For most young married couples, term insurance is the most reasonable way to provide for the unexpected. Statistically, young married couples are more likely to be disabled than to die prematurely, so don’t overlook the importance of disability insurance, which provides monthly income in the event illness or an injury makes you unable to work.
Discussion Topic No. 5: Debt
These days, it’s not uncommon for young couples to bring debt into a marriage. Whether it’s a student loan, car payments, or credit card debt, young newlyweds should devise a workable strategy for paying off high-interest loans and credit cards.
Be sure, too, that you and your spouse compare credit cards and eliminate redundancies to save money on annual fees. In doing so, bear in mind that it’s a good idea to keep at least one card in your own name to maintain an individual credit rating.
Discussion Topic No. 6: Retirement
Remember, it’s never too early to look ahead to spending your golden years together. Take advantage of company-sponsored 401(k) plans, IRAs, and other retirement vehicles. The more you save now, the more your money will grow through the compounding of interest.
Discussion Topic No. 7: Investments
Selecting the right investments depends on market conditions, the amount you have to invest, your financial goals, and your willingness to take risks. The younger you are, the more you can invest in stocks, which tend to offer the highest yield over the long term.
Discussion Topic No. 8: Taxes
Most two-earner couples will end up with a higher combined tax bill than they would have as single taxpayers with the same income. That’s why it’s important for you and your partner to make a commitment to year-round tax planning. In terms of filing status, don’t assume you should file jointly now that you’re married. While doing so generally results in a lower tax liability, there are some instances when you’re better off filing separately. If you’re not sure, check with a CPA or other tax professional.
Discussion Topic No. 9: Wills And Estate Planning
If you already have a will, you’ll need to have it updated to reflect your marriage. If you don’t, you and your spouse should have one prepared. If you die without a will, state laws dictate how your property will be distributed.
Discussion Topic No. 10: Goals
Whether your goals call for buying a house, starting a family, going on vacation, returning to school, or opening your own business, you’ll need to discuss your plans with your spouse and begin to take steps to align your financial plans with your overall goals.