This checklist will give you a good start of upgrading your individual financial plan to a joint one.
Marriage is a very important stage in one’s life. Getting married means that you tied an emotional as well as a financial knot with your partner. Most of the surveys and academic studies illustrate that “money issue” or “financial disagreement” is one of the leading cause of divorce. To get a good preparation and enjoy your married life, I hope that this list could be helpful.
1. Update your name if you change your name after marriage
- Go to the Social Security Office to update your name in person.
- Notify your employer and any other professionals about your name change.
- Start updating your name on the following, including but not limited to driver’s license, passport, bank accounts, credit cards, insurance policies, investment accounts, cars, house, debts, etc.
- Keep at least one of your old identification just in case.
2. Organize your finances together
- Decide if you two want to manage your finances separately or jointly.
- Make a list of your shared assets, debts, income and expenses and allocate respective responsibility. (If you live in one of the nine community property states, half of your income and assets during the marriage will be owned by your spouse automatically)
- Update the titles of everything you would like to be owned jointly and make sure it is titled correctly (i.e., tenants in common, joint tenants with right of survivorship or payable on death/transfer on death).
- Set personal and family financial goals.
3. Optimize your finances as a couple
- Review your credit reports and credit scores; determine if you need to and how you could improve your credit score for future financial goals, such as buying a home.
- Decide whether you would like to consolidate your separate financial accounts into one joint account.
- Review and update the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and financial accounts.
- Review your medical benefits and see if it’s more beneficial to join a family health plan instead of the individual health plan.
- Update your W-4 with your employer to decrease or increase your withholding tax.
- Determine how your marital status will affect your taxes (i.e., should you file as married filing jointly or married filing separately?)
- Consider getting more life and/or disability insurance since you have more family responsibilities.
- Get new quotes on your auto insurance and see if you could get family and/or multi-policy discounts.
- Consider adding new valuable personal properties to your renter or homeowner insurance (i.e., engagement ring, wedding ring and your spouse’s personal properties).
- Update your will, power of attorney, living will and any other estate planning documents if necessary.
- Create a family budget and see whether you could cut some expenses as a couple.
- Create saving plans for each financial goals.
- Discuss each one’s risk tolerance and investment philosophy; determine investment strategy for family goals.
- Decide if you need any professional help on implementing anything mentioned above and who you need. You could learn more about "What Should You Know Before Getting A Professional To Help You Manage Your Personal Finances?" from my previous blog post.
It is not always easy for newlyweds to discuss their financial matters. The best approach is to communicate openly and candidly. By combining your financial plans or at least creating a family financial plan together, you will lay a solid foundation for your partnership. The next thing you need to do is to keep communicating, monitoring and updating your financial plans and then to create your wonderful future together.