Married Americans live longer, maintain better health, are happier and do better financially - not because financially successful people get married, but because married people who behave as true financial partners do better financially. In the first and third years of marriage money was the most often reported topic of disagreement- even higher than in-laws, religion and children. Arguing about money is a top predictor of divorce and more than two-thirds of engaged couples have negative attitudes about discussing money with their soon-to-be-spouse. Marriage commitment and healthy communications are maintained when couples have set guidelines and boundaries for their financial decisions.
The Better Business Bureau's President and CEO, Melanie Duquesnel shares five simple tips that couples can follow to set their marriage up for financial success:
1. Bank Accounts and Credit Cards: Unless you authorize your bank and credit card lenders to talk to your spouse, they cannot provide your spouse with any information about your account, even in the event of an emergency.
- Contact your bank and credit card lenders to add your spouse as someone authorized to discuss your accounts.
- Consider opening a joint bank account, even if only to cover household expenses.
- Calculate 401(k) and IRA contributions as part of your budget, and make sure you're both saving at least enough to take advantage of the company's match.
2. Taxes: Getting married changes your filing status. The only statuses you can claim are married filing jointly or married filing separately. Your income might be taxed differently because your income bracket might change once you marry.
- If you purchase a home together or have children together, your taxes will change again. Spouses are also able to gift each other unlimited amounts free of income taxes.
- There are other tax changes depending on your own personal finances, so be sure to discuss these issues with your partner.
- Visiting a FINRA-regulated financial planner can help limit the possibility that you will end up owing at tax time.
3. Marriage, Money and Property: When you get married, your property and finances will, to a certain extent, merge with those of your spouse.
- Michigan is not an 'equitable distribution' state, which means that division of property depends on the decision of the court based on the circumstances of the case.
- Consider drafting a pre-nuptial agreement to set forth the terms you and your spouse will abide by in the event of death or divorce. Prenuptial agreements are common amongst blended families, families of wealth, and business owners.
4. Insurance: After marriage, you may have the option to join your spouse's insurance plan- or they yours.
- If both you and your spouse have health insurance plans through work, determine whether you will save money by joining your spouse's plan or keeping separate plans.
- Many insurance plans set a time limit for enrolling a spouse after marriage, usually 30 days. Once that time is up you must wait until the next open enrollment period.
5. Life Insurance and Retirement: Many life insurance policies allow you to specify more than one beneficiary and the percentage each beneficiary will receive.
- If you have life insurance or retirement accounts, update the information to make your spouse the beneficiary.
- If you help support other family members or a family member has cosigned on a loan, you may want to designate a portion of your life insurance to cover those costs.
- If your spouse relies on your income or the two of you have a mortgage or other loans, you should take out additional life insurance to help your spouse adjust in the event of your death.