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
- Remarriage and Prenuptial Agreements
- Remarriage: Sharing Assets and Debts
- Planning for Marriage to Someone with Children
- Remarriage with Children: Income Tax Considerations
- I'm getting remarried. How will this affect my Social Security benefits?
- Should I sign a prenuptial agreement to protect my assets when I remarry?
- I'm marrying someone with bad credit. How will this affect me?
- What kind of insurance can I buy to cover my diamond engagement ring?
- I'm about to get married. Should I adjust the asset allocation in my 401(k) to take my husband's investments into account?
Merging Your Money When You Marry
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.
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
Planning for Marriage to Someone with Children
If your future spouse is paying child support:
If your future spouse is receiving child support:
If your future spouse is receiving alimony from a prior marriage:
Planning your estate:
If you divorce:
Consider a prenuptial agreement to:
Remarriage with Children: Income Tax Considerations
Child support payments:
Medical expenses deduction:
Child and dependent care credit:
Child (and additional child) tax credit:
Education tax credits:
I’m getting remarried. How will this affect my Social Security benefits?
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 credit.org 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?
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.