When Two Become One: Organizing Finances Once You Get Married

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/19/2007

They say communication is one of the most important things to have in a relationship. This is true, not only for things that concern your personal lives, but also for your financial lives as well.

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To organize your finances into one, it is important to have open communication with your significant other and to figure out what your net worth truly is as a married couple. To do this, list your assets in one column, and your liabilities in another. Subtract your liabilities from your assets, and the final product is your total net worth. Your net worth can give you a good look at your overall financial picture, and if in the event your results are low, you and your significant other can then develop a financial plan.

It is also important to discuss your short-term and long-term financial goals. For example, a good thing to do would be to make a list of your short-term goals (like planning a family vacation) and your long-term financial goals (like saving for a new house or retirement). Then prioritize your goals by matter of importance, and then ask yourself these key questions:

  • What can I do to accomplish these goals?
  • How much will we need to save to accomplish these goals?
  • Is one investment better to use towards it, rather than another?
  • Will accomplishing one goal ultimately help us accomplish another?

 

Number crunching
Preparing a monthly financial budget is a good idea to keep track of how much money you spend, and to see where it's exactly going to. Be sure to include your monthly income and expenses so you can see if you're spending within your means-list your income (salary, wages, alimony, interest and child support) and your expenses (rent, mortgage payments, groceries, student loan payments etc.). Add your expenses and then your incomes and compare the totals. The result should be that you spend less than you make, but if that's not the case, review your expenses and see if you have anything you can cut out to make it so. Always monitor your budget and make periodic adjustments where you see fit.

Note: It may be a good idea to seek professional advice from a financial planner or research on the internet when it comes to developing financial plans and budgets. For long-term investment goals, it may make more sense to prepare an annual budget rather than a monthly one.

Merging bank accounts when you get married
There are pros/cons to keeping separate accounts and or combining your money into a joint account when you get married. Consolidating your funds into one account makes it easier to apply for a loan, manage funds, organize bookkeeping and reduce maintenance fees. A downside to consolidation is that it's more difficult to keep track of how much money is spent and available when there are two individuals writing checks. Also, in the event you and your significant other split, you both still have access to the funds, which technically means one person could take all the money and run.

Joint credit cards
There may come a time in your marriage where you want to apply for a joint credit card, but you should note that when you do this, you are both responsible for 100% of the debt you incur. Keep that in mind before you add your name to a spouse's credit card or before you decide to co-sign an account for your significant other. And always shop around to find the best credit cards for your individual situation.

It would make sense to assume that spouses wouldn't be held accountable for the other's credit card if they maintained separate cards, but in some states, this is not true. Both spouses may be held accountable for credit card debt incurred by one spouse if the debt is considered a family expense (like groceries or child care). In states considered community property states, spouses may be held accountable for the other's credit card debt if the property that underlies the debt is listed as being both of theirs.

On the road to retirement
Different retirement plans have different features and characteristics, so it is important to evaluate both plans if you each have one. You may find out that one is more beneficial than the other, offering loan provisions, investment options or matching contributions. If in the event a budget limits your ability to take advantage of two plans, review both options and determine which provides the best benefits and focus on an investment strategy towards that particular plan.

Insurances: Which one is better?
When you wed, many different options for insurance are opened up to you as a married couple, so it is important to pay attention to the different choices you may make, and see what is most beneficial to you and your spouse.

For example, your spouse's health plan may not be as good as your own, in that it offers higher premiums, deductibles or co-payments. If that's the case, you will need to determine if it is worth it to pick one health insurance plan over another plan, or if it is better to maintain separate health insurance coverage.

When it comes to car insurance, many companies offer discounts if more than one car is insured with them. Also, auto insurance companies may give a bigger discount for having coverage for your home or apartment, as well as car insurance, with them. Check with each of your insurance companies and see what kind of rates you can get for pooling together your policies.

If you have recently married and are interested in merging your car insurance together, log on to Insurance.com. Here you will be able to evaluate multiple rates from best-in-class car insurance providers-helping you find the best car insurance coverage for you and your spouse.

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