The wedding cake is eaten, the relatives have all gone home, and thank you cards have been written. You are newly married. So what do you do now? Well now is the perfect time in your marriage to plan for your future, specifically your financial future. And there are many steps you should take to ensure the financial future of your marriage is bright. Here are 6 Financial Steps to Take After Marriage.
Financial Step 1: Pull your credit reports from all three sources.
Checking out your credit scores is a great starting place in preparing for your future. You can get an honest look at each other’s histories, and once you know truly where the other person is coming from the decisions you make while planning are more educated. (If you can take this step before walking down the aisle that is even better.)
Here are the three sources to use when check your credit reports.
- Annual Credit Report.com (This will not work for you if you have your credit reports locked down like I do.)
Financial Step 2: Change or add your names.
This may seem like an obvious step, deciding whether or not to change your name after marriage. However, deciding to change your name simply by legally changing your driver’s license and social security cards is only the first place to start. Here is a listing of all of the places that you may want to consider changing your name or adding your spouses name.
- Driver’s License – DMV.org
- Passport – Travel.State.gov
- Social Security Card – Social Security.gov
- Your Insurance Beneficiaries
- Your Health Insurance Plans
- Your Auto Insurance Plans
- Titles of Cars, Property, and other Assets
- Student Loans
- Bank Accounts
Financial Step 3: Decide if you are going to file taxes jointly or separately.
Within many marriages couples opt to file jointly on their taxes. However, this is not the smart decision for everyone. See a tax professional to help you make the appropriate decision for you and your spouse.
Financial Step 4: Merge your accounts and get rid of duplicate bills.
This an area that requires a lot of consideration. Pulling your credit reports as you did in step one provides you with a pretty clear picture of each of your financial histories. From there you can decide whether or not you wish to fully merge, partially merge, or try to keep your finances as separate as possible within your marriage. Some areas that you may consider merging are the following.
- Bank Accounts
- Credit Cards – Even you do decide to merge these, I recommend that each individual be the primary card holder on at least one card. This is especially important if one spouse is thinking about becoming a stay at home parent. Credit cards can no longer be obtained using household income to determine credit worthiness (you have to use your individual salary or income).
- Savings and Investment Accounts
- Services such as cell phone plans, gym memberships, etc. Many times by merging accounts you can save money in monthly fees.
Financial Step 5: Start tracking your finances.
Once you have pulled credit reports and decided whether or not to merge your finances, now is the perfect time to start tracking your expenses as I discussed in Living on One Income: One Family’s Process. Tracking your expenses is a fool proof way to help you figure out how each of you spends money, where improvements can be made, and to hold yourself accountable when you start Step 6.
Financial Step 6: Start planning and saving for the future.
What are plans for you as a couple in the short term? Do you want to travel, do you want to buy a new car, do you want to pay off your student loans? And what are your plans for the long term? Do you want buy a house or have children? If you haven’t already or even if you have, have these discussions when you first get married.
Taking the time to plan for the future can be an exciting prospect, and taking the time to create the habit of having an open dialogue about money can really help prepare your marriage for both the good times and the bad times when you might have unexpected financial struggles such as a surprise pregnancy or other surprise health issues.
Check out the following posts for more information about marriage and financial planning: