Getting Married

Every stage of life has its own financial needs and concerns. The life events on this page can help you target the key financial strategies and issues that are likely to be most important to you in this stage of your life.

Remarriage: Sharing Assets and Debts

Merging Your Money When You Marry

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Getting married is exciting, but it brings many challenges. One such challenge that you and your spouse will have to face is how to merge your finances. Planning carefully and communicating clearly are important, because the financial decisions that you make now can have a lasting impact on your future.

Discuss your financial goals

The first step in mapping out your financial future together is to discuss your financial goals. Start by making a list of your short-term goals (e.g., paying off wedding debt, new car, vacation) and long-term goals (e.g., having children, your children’s college education, retirement). Then, determine which goals are most important to you. Once you’ve identified the goals that are a priority, you can focus your energy on achieving them.

Prepare a budget

Next, you should prepare a budget that lists all of your income and expenses over a certain time period (e.g., monthly, annually). You can designate one spouse to be in charge of managing the budget, or you can take turns keeping records and paying the bills. If both you and your spouse are going to be involved, make sure that you develop a record-keeping system that both of you understand. And remember to keep your records in a joint filing system so that both of you can easily locate important documents.

Begin by listing your sources of income (e.g., salaries and wages, interest, dividends). Then, list your expenses (it may be helpful to review several months of entries in your checkbook and credit card bills). Add them up and compare the two totals. Hopefully, you get a positive number, meaning that you spend less than you earn. If not, review your expenses and see where you can cut down on your spending.

Bank accounts–separate or joint?

At some point, you and your spouse will have to decide whether to combine your bank accounts or keep them separate. Maintaining a joint account does have advantages, such as easier record keeping and lower maintenance fees. However, it’s sometimes more difficult to keep track of how much money is in a joint account when two individuals have access to it. Of course, you could avoid this problem by making sure that you tell each other every time you write a check or withdraw funds from the account. Or, you could always decide to maintain separate accounts.

Credit cards

If you’re thinking about adding your name to your spouse’s credit card accounts, think again. When you and your spouse have joint credit, both of you will become responsible for 100 percent of the credit card debt. In addition, if one of you has poor credit, it will negatively impact the credit rating of the other.

If you or your spouse does not qualify for a card because of poor credit, and you are willing to give your spouse account privileges anyway, you can make your spouse an authorized user of your credit card. An authorized user is not a joint cardholder and is therefore not liable for any amounts charged to the account. Also, the account activity won’t show up on the authorized user’s credit record. But remember, you remain responsible for the account.


If you and your spouse have separate health insurance coverage, you’ll want to do a cost/benefit analysis of each plan to see if you should continue to keep your health coverage separate. For example, if your spouse’s health plan has a higher deductible and/or co-payments or fewer benefits than those offered by your plan, he or she may want to join your health plan instead. You’ll also want to compare the rate for one family plan against the cost of two single plans.

It’s a good idea to examine your auto insurance coverage, too. If you and your spouse own separate cars, you may have different auto insurance carriers. Consider pooling your auto insurance policies with one company; many insurance companies will give you a discount if you insure more than one car with them. If one of you has a poor driving record, however, make sure that changing companies won’t mean paying a higher premium.

Employer-sponsored retirement plans

If both you and your spouse participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you should be aware of each plan’s characteristics. Review each plan together carefully and determine which plan provides the best benefits. If you can afford it, you should each participate to the maximum in your own plan. If your current cash flow is limited, you can make one plan the focus of your retirement strategy. Here are some helpful tips:

  • If both plans match contributions, determine which plan offers the best match and take full advantage of it
  • Compare the vesting schedules for the employer’s matching contributions
  • Compare the investment options offered by each plan–the more options you have, the more likely you are to find an investment mix that suits your needs
  • Find out whether the plans offer loans–if you plan to use any of your contributions for certain expenses (e.g., your children’s college education, a down payment on a house), you may want to participate in the plan that has a loan provision

Remarriage and Prenuptial Agreements

Even if you have never thought about signing a prenuptial agreement, it’s wise to consider it now. That’s because one or both spouses in a remarriage may have significant assets, business interests, or children to consider. Here are the issues that prenuptial agreements typically address:
A prenuptial agreement:
  • Details the assets and liabilities that each partner brings into the marriage.
  • Spells out a couple’s agreement on the division of assets in the event of divorce.
Assets and liabilities
  • What assets are you each bringing into the marriage, and what is their value?
  • Which assets become marital property, and which ones will continue to be owned individually?
  • Will gifts and inheritances be shared or separate?
  • What liabilities do each of you have?
If you divorce
  • How will you divide assets?
  • Will either spouse receive a lump-sum settlement or alimony?
Estate planning
  • What will go to your children from previous marriages?
  • What will go to children you have together?
Special considerations
  • Will special contributions (e.g., limiting a career for the benefit of children or the other spouse) be considered?
  • What if one spouse brings more liabilities to the marriage than the other?
  • Will there be a time limit or condition (e.g., 10 years of marriage, the birth of a child) that will end the prenuptial agreement?
Writing a prenuptial agreement is not a do-it-yourself project

  • You and your future spouse should hire separate attorneys.
  • The best prenuptial agreement is one that protects the interests of both spouses without causing mistrust.

Remarriage: Sharing Assets and Debts

When it comes to sharing assets and debts in remarriage, how “to have and to hold” can take some thought.


Type of Asset or Debt Factors to Consider
Debts incurred before remarriage
  • Keeping these debts separate protects the non-debtor spouse’s separate property from creditors
Debts incurred during the marriage
  • Sharing debt only for jointly acquired property protects both spouses’ separate property from creditors of the other spouse
  • Debt for property owned separately should be the liability of the owner spouse only
Property owned separately before remarriage
  • Separate assets may be used to provide for children of a previous relationship
  • Separate assets may be used to take advantage of both spouses’ estate tax applicable exclusion amounts
  • Separate ownership protects each spouse from losing his or her assets to the other spouse’s creditors
  • Owning your home jointly as tenants by the entirety can help protect it from many potential creditors
  • Seek advice before placing a debtor spouse’s name on the title to the home–there are numerous considerations
  • Consider a Homestead Declaration for additional protection
Checking account
  • Having one joint checking account to pay household expenses is convenient
  • Each spouse can contribute equally or in proportion to earnings
  • Even if you keep your investments separate, make investment decisions together
  • Consider the effect on your combined portfolios when making investment decisions; keep your overall portfolio diversified
Insurance policies
  • Prevent duplicate coverage and make sure that you have adequate coverage for your combined needs
  • Check whether it’s less expensive to carry separate policies or combine both spouses under one policy
  • Check that the correct beneficiary has been named to life insurance policies


Planning for Marriage to Someone with Children

If your future spouse is paying child support:

  • Payments usually continue for a specified period
  • Payments could increase in the future
  • Your future spouse’s ex-spouse can request that the court increase support payments as a result of your contribution to the household income
Marrying someone with children means dealing with the financial issues that all couples face when getting married, plus some that are uniquely related to rearing someone else’s children. Here are some points to consider.

If your future spouse is receiving child support:

  • Payments usually continue for a specified period
  • There’s no guarantee the amount of the payments will remain the same
  • An ex-spouse can petition the court to reduce payments under certain circumstances (e.g., upon job loss)

If your future spouse is receiving alimony from a prior marriage:

  • Consult the divorce decree for the terms
  • Alimony payments may be reduced or stopped upon remarriage

Planning your estate:

  • Consider how you’ll dispose of your assets to provide for a surviving spouse, children, and stepchildren upon your death
  • Child custody can be difficult to obtain when you’re not biologically related to the child
  • Discuss these issues with your attorney

If you divorce:

  • You’re unlikely to be required to make child support payments for a stepchild
  • You can be required to make child support payments if you’ve adopted the child

Consider a prenuptial agreement to:

  • Spell out each spouse’s rights, duties, and obligations during marriage
  • Specify what happens if you separate or divorce, or if one of you dies
  • Protect the legal rights of both spouses and of any children involved

Remarriage with Children: Income Tax Considerations

Alimony payments:

Pre-2019 divorce

  • Usually must be included in the gross income of the recipient
  • Can be deducted by the payer (if all requirements are met)
  • The divorce agreement may designate alimony as nontaxable and nondeductible

Post-2018 divorce

  • Not included in the gross income of the recipient
  • Can’t be deducted by the payer
Marrying someone with childrenfrom a prior relationship can create a variety of income tax questions. Here are some points to consider.

Child support payments:

  • Ordinarily considered nontaxable income of the recipient
  • Are not deductible by the payer

Medical expenses deduction:

  • Custody of the child isn’t required
  • Claiming the child as a dependent isn’t required (although you must be eligible to claim the child as a dependent)
  • Medical expenses are only deductible as an itemized deduction on Schedule A, Form 1040, to the extent they exceed 7.5% (10% in 2019) of adjusted gross income (AGI) on the tax return

Child and dependent care credit:

  • Can only be claimed by the custodial parent
  • Must be for child-care expenses incurred so you can work
  • Can claim, if qualified, even if you’re not claiming the child as a dependent because you release the right to claim the child to the noncustodial parent

Child (and additional child) tax credit:

  • Can claim, if qualified, for a child you claim as a dependent
  • Custody of the child isn’t required

Education tax credits:

  • You must be claiming the child as a dependent
  • You must have paid qualified tuition and/or related expenses

I’m getting remarried. How will this affect my Social Security benefits?

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If you’re receiving benefits based on your own work record, your benefits will continue. If you’re receiving spousal benefits based on your former spouse’s work record, those benefits will generally end upon your getting remarried, but you may be able to receive benefits based on your new spouse’s work record, or on your own.
If you’re a widow(er) under age 60, or you’re disabled but under 50, remarriage ends any benefits based on the record of your deceased spouse. However, if you remarry after age 60 (or after 50 and are disabled), those benefits remain intact, unless you get spousal benefits through your new spouse (at age 62 or older) if those benefits are higher. If your second marriage ends as a result of death, divorce, or annulment in less than 10 years, you will again be eligible to collect benefits on your first spouse’s record. Benefits paid to a disabled widow(er) are unaffected by remarriage.
Note, too, that if you were the working spouse during your first marriage, your remarriage does not change the Social Security benefits paid to either your new spouse or ex-spouse. Because the rules surrounding payment of benefits are complicated, and depend on your particular situation, contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 for more information.
Should I sign a prenuptial agreement to protect my assets when I remarry? 

Answer:Even if you never thought about signing a prenuptial agreement the first time you married, it’s wise to consider it now, because marriage is often more complicated the second (or third or fourth) time around. You may have more assets now, or you may own a business or have children to protect. And because you’ve been through it before, you may be worried about the financial consequences of divorce or widowhood.

A prenuptial agreement can ease your mind by spelling out what assets and liabilities each partner is bringing into the marriage, and by determining how money or property brought into the marriage or acquired during the marriage will be divided if the marriage ends either in death or divorce.

A prenuptial agreement addresses some or all of these points:

  • Assets and liabilities: What assets are you each bringing into the marriage? How much are they worth, and who owns them? Which ones will become marital property, and which ones will continue to be owned individually? Will gifts and inheritances be shared or separate? What liabilities do you have (e.g., back taxes or other debt)?
  • Divorce: If you divorce, how will you divide assets brought into the marriage or acquired during the marriage? Will either spouse receive a lump-sum cash settlement or alimony?
  • Estate planning: What will go to your children from previous marriages? What will go to children you have together?
  • Special contributions of partners: If one spouse contributes to the marriage in a special way (e.g., limiting his or her career for the benefit of children or the other spouse), will that spouse be provided for? What if one spouse brings more liabilities to the marriage than the other?

Because it’s difficult to write an ironclad prenuptial agreement, don’t try doing it yourself. Instead, you and your future spouse should hire separate attorneys to help you negotiate an agreement that will protect your financial interests without causing mistrust between the two of you.

I’m marrying someone with bad credit. How will this affect me? 


You are not responsible for your future spouse’s bad credit or debt, unless you choose to take it on by getting a loan together to pay off the debt. However, your future spouse’s credit problems can prevent you from getting credit as a couple after you’re married. Even if you’ve had spotless credit, you may be turned down for credit cards or loans that you apply for together if your spouse has had serious problems.

You’re smart to face this issue now rather than wait until after you’re married to discuss it. Attitudes toward spending money, along with credit and debt problems, often lead to arguments that can strain a marriage. Order copies of both of your credit reports from one or more major credit reporting bureaus. Then, sit down and honestly discuss your past and future finances. Find out why your future spouse got into trouble with credit.

Next, if there is still outstanding debt, consider going through credit counseling together. Credit counseling may help your future spouse clean up his or her credit record and get back on track financially. One nonprofit organization, Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS), offers one-on-one credit and debt counseling that may help you learn how to better handle your joint finances. Visit to learn more.

Finally, seriously consider keeping your credit separate, at least until your spouse’s credit record improves. You don’t have to combine your credit when you marry. For instance, apply for credit by yourself instead of applying for joint credit after you’re married. You can have separate “associate” cards issued for your spouse to use. Even if your spouse has bad credit, your credit rating will remain unaffected. However, keeping separate credit can be complicated. For one thing, your spouse may resent that you control all of the credit in the household. It’s also possible that you’ll have a harder time qualifying for loans (e.g., a mortgage) alone than if your spouse’s income could also be counted.

What kind of insurance can I buy to cover my diamond engagement ring?


What kind of insurance can I buy to cover my diamond engagement ring?


If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you already have some coverage for your ring. A typical homeowners or renters policy will offer protection (up to a specified dollar amount) for jewelry and other forms of personal property. If the value of your ring exceeds these coverage limits, you can purchase a floater that will provide you with additional coverage for your diamond ring, based on its appraised value.

You can also purchase an insurance policy specifically designed to protect jewelry and other valuables. It’s likely that a certified jeweler would have to appraise your ring for the insurance company. If you’re interested in such a stand-alone policy, ask your insurance agent for more information.

I’m about to get married. Should I adjust the asset allocation in my 401(k) to take my husband’s investments into account?

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That depends on several factors. Perhaps the first step is to make sure your existing asset allocation is appropriate for your circumstances; if you haven’t reviewed it in several years, you should probably take a fresh look at it, whether or not you intend to consider his assets in your investing strategy. Assuming your allocation is appropriate for your current situation, you may want to make sure that any overlap between your accounts doesn’t create a portfolio that’s too heavily concentrated in a single position. For example, if you have received company stock as part of your compensation plan for many years, you might not have enough diversity in your portfolio; if both of you have worked at the same employer, the problem could be even worse.

However, you don’t necessarily need to make dramatic changes right away. No matter how compatible you might be, marriages have been known to fail, and sometimes they fail in a shorter time frame than anyone ever expected. If you do decide to make adjustments, remember that you can phase them in gradually to create an asset allocation strategy that includes both portfolios. For example, you might decide to simply allocate new money to a different investment or asset class rather than shift existing assets.

Explain to your husband why you’ve chosen to invest as you have; you may have a perspective he’s overlooked or information he hasn’t considered that could be helpful even if you manage your portfolios entirely independently. And since it’s your account, you have the final say. If there’s a difference in your investing philosophies, a neutral third party with some expertise and a dispassionate view of the situation may be able to help work through differences; that can be especially valuable in cases where substantial assets are at stake.