My wife and I went tandem bungee jumping together on our honeymoon. There’s something about an adrenaline rush like that that gets you thinking about the bigger picture. And as a newlywed financial planner, it prompted me to think about the planning we had in place and have a conversation about what our future goals looked like.
First, just talking about it is the biggest step. Open communication between you and your new spouse about your joint financial goals is one of the most important things you can do so you can avoid financial surprises down the road. Once you know where you stand and where you want to go you can take the proper steps to get there. Here is what we learned.
1. Set up a joint checking account: Even if you plan to keep your finances somewhat separate, it is very helpful to have a joint checking account that you both have access to.
2. Set a budget: Make sure you are on the same page about how much you are saving and spending on a monthly basis. You will also want to evaluate the debt you each have and set up plan in your monthly budget to pay off the highest interest rate debt first.
3. Coordinate benefits at work: Figure out if joining a spouse’s medical or dental insurance plan offers better coverage and/or pricing than what you currently have. Also make sure you are both taking advantage of company matches in your retirement plans.
4. Re-evaluate your overall investment allocation: Now that you have joint goals, you should make sure your investments aren’t counteracting each other. You want to make sure you are not unnecessarily taking risk by being too overweight in a certain area.
5. Protection plans: Someone else is now relying on you and your income. Make sure you have the proper amounts of disability insurance and life insurance in place so if something terrible does happen it won’t financially ruin the other.
6. Beneficiaries and titling of accounts: Most of your retirement accounts and insurance will never pass through a will if you die. This is the same with joint accounts. They go directly to the named beneficiary or joint account holder. Because of this, make sure they are all set up the way you want them.
7. Name change: If you change your name, make sure you update and notify the IRS, Social Security, credit card companies, DMV, banks, etc.
8. Emergency fund: Make sure you have enough cash readily available in case of an emergency. This could be three months to a year of your salary, depending on how secure your job is and how volatile your income is.
It can be a daunting task to coordinate finances with your new spouse, but it is very important. Once completed, all of these steps will help you smoothly move forward financially with your new spouse.