Just Married? Take These Financial Steps First

You made it official and tied the knot! These 10 steps will help you make sure your finances are official, too.

Congratulations! After all the planning and celebrating, the wedding is over, and you’re legally married! You and your new spouse are living together in newly-wedded bliss, enjoying the memories from one of the biggest days of your life. Now that the marriage license is signed, it’s time to get down to business and start working on your life together – which means working on your now-connected finances. 

Keeping your finances separate before marriage makes a lot of sense, but after you tie the knot you should know what steps to take. Every couple is different and will have different priorities when it comes to their finances. However, it’s still helpful to know what steps most couples should take after they say “I do.” 

Sit down with your bride or groom and start making a to-do list. And buckle up: you won’t get this to-do list done in one day. Take it step by step, and soon enough you’ll find that you’re making progress in this important area of your new life together. We recommend starting with these 10 steps.

Be Honest About Your Finances

Before you discuss anything else with your new spouse, start by being honest about your financial situation. That means explaining any debts you have (and how much they are) as well as your assets. Lay out your plan for tackling your debts first. The support of your spouse could make all the difference! 

Don’t start your marriage by hiding your financial situation. Be honest with your spouse, and you’ll soon see that two heads can be better than one.

Be Patient With Yourself and Your Spouse

Stressed couple sitting in living room looking at paper with concern

While you might be living in newly-wedded bliss right now, the reality is that, at some point, you and your spouse are going to have disagreements about money. After all, it’s pretty rare to find a couple that never has disagreements about finances. 

Going into your marriage, expect that there are going to be differences in your attitudes about money. According to Money Management International, “Here’s the deal—you and your spouse are different people with different backgrounds. That means that you have different experiences with money and different expectations. Instead of viewing your differences as a problem, try to see them as a source of strength.”

Let your different perspectives about money guide you through your financial decision-making. Remember: marriage is all about compromise – especially when it comes to money.

Talk About Your Priorities

If you already own a home together, you’re going to have a different set of priorities than a young married couple who doesn’t know which city they’ll settle down in. Every couple will have a different set of priorities. What are yours? 

Take some time to brainstorm, and then write down a list of what you want to save for and what it’s important for you to spend on. One person might prioritize spending on weekly nail appointments or an elite gym membership. Or you both might agree that your top priority is saving as much as possible to buy your first home together. 

Be confident that you’re both in agreement about your financial priorities. Remember, you need to establish a strong financial foundation if you’re going to have a healthy marriage. Taking the time to discuss priorities now will save you from arguments down the line.  

Consider Your Three Bank Account Options

Person at bank teller window

Picture this: it’s after the wedding, and you have a stack of checks from generous family members who gave you money for your wedding. Are you unsure about whose account those checks should be deposited in? 

You have three options when it comes to your bank accounts after you get married.

Option 1: Keep them completely separate.

Option 2:  Set up joint accounts but keep separate individual accounts as well.

Option 3: Only use shared joint accounts. 

Option two is a common route that many couples take. In this option, according to the balance,  “If a couple decides to merge their money halfway, each spouse keeps a separate bank account in which to put their paychecks, and then there is a joint account funded by both spouses from which expenses are paid. “ This makes paying bills – like the mortgage or rent, utilities, and groceries – much easier.

Talk through the pros and cons of each option with your spouse. If one spouse works as a freelancer, for example, it could be difficult for them to set up automatic paycheck contributions to a joint account. 

On the other hand, if both spouses have a regular monthly salary and are on the same page when it comes to spending and saving, only using joint accounts (and not having any separate individual accounts) might be the best option. 

Read More: Money Conversations to Have Before You Get Married

Tackle Your Health Insurance

One of the key practical benefits of marriage is the option to add your spouse to your health insurance plan. Now that you’re married, each spouse is automatically entitled to join the other’s health insurance plan for a set period of time after the marriage is official. 

But who should join which plan, or should you stay on your current plan instead?

The only way to find the answer is to sit down, look at the paperwork, and compare the rates of the health insurance plans offered by both of your employers.

While it might seem like it makes financial sense for one spouse to be added to the other’s health insurance plan, it’s also important to think about deductibles. If you’ve already spent a significant amount towards meeting your deductible this year, you may want to wait until the next plan year to switch to your spouse’s insurance. 

As you make your decision about health insurance, you may also want to add life insurance and disability insurance as well. If there’s any chance that you may need either (if your spouse works a dangerous job, for example) it could be a wise idea to sign up now. 

You may already be signed up – great! If that’s the case, make sure you change your beneficiary to your spouse. Otherwise, they might not receive any benefits.

Drive Your Way to Savings

Smiling woman in car looking at sideview mirror

Health insurance isn’t the only type of insurance where you may be able to save after your wedding. Your car insurance rate could go down once you notify your agency that you’re married. 

In general, it’s a good idea to shop around for a new car insurance policy after you’ve tied the knot. You may be surprised at the monthly savings if you switch to a new carrier once you’re married. 

You should also take a second look at your homeowner or renter’s insurance policy to see if you can save more now that you’re legally married. While it may take some extra work, it’ll be worth it to have that extra cash in your pocket!

Read More: The Happy, Healthy Way to Share Finances with Your Partner

Save For Retirement

You may already be saving for retirement. Now it’s time to look at the retirement accounts offered by both of your employers and decide if and how you want to maximize your retirement savings.

For example, if one spouse earns significantly more than the other, it might make sense for the higher-earning spouse to contribute to the other spouse’s Roth IRA. Speak with your tax accountant before you make any significant changes. 

Changing Your Name? Do It Legally

Briefcases with money in foreground and bridge and groom in background

If you’ve decided to change your last name, make sure you do it legally! You’ll need to change your name with the Social Security Administration, on your driver’s license and passport, on your bank accounts, and on other important accounts like your retirement accounts. Check out this guide to what you need to do to change your last name.

Evaluate Your Financial Values

The chances are good that you probably wouldn’t have agreed to get married if you didn’t share some financial values already. Now it’s time to kick it up a notch. 

Getting legally married is the start of a new phase in your relationship. It can also be a great time to start trying to incorporate new financial habits into your life. Just don’t try to start too many new habits all at once.

You already made your list of financial priorities, whether that’s saving for a house or spending to maintain a certain lifestyle. Now that you’ve done the hard work of switching insurance, changing your name, etc., take another look at your values and decide on a list of your shared financial priorities. 

Make a Spending Plan

Overhead view of couple pointing to calculator on iPhone

Now it’s time to get down to the details. Focus on how to blend your finances on a daily level. This goes beyond setting a budget. According to Money Management International, “While your budget represents a theoretical version of your finances, your spending plan makes that theory a reality. 

A spending plan provides the details missing in your budget – it tells you how you’ll address your expenses and how you’ll work towards your goals. It’s especially crucial to make sure you have a plan when combining finances to avoid misunderstandings and confusion.”

Making a spending plan should be a top priority, but it’s best to wait until after you know exactly how much you’ll be spending on health insurance, car insurance, etc. Once you’ve finished all the previous steps, nail down your spending plan and start taking concrete steps towards your financial goals together as a married couple.

Read More: When Couples Should Combine Their Finances — and When They Shouldn’t

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