You've chosen the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, now for the life part. Getting married means a lot of changes. From buying a house, to combining your book collections, to sharing a closet, things that were once yours are about to become ours. Your finances are no exception. To help keep the transition from single life to married life nice and smooth, Columbia Bank has collected some helpful thoughts and tips on everything from saving for your wedding to filing taxes.
Before the Wedding
- Start talking. Money is an important part of everyone's life, and no two people deal with it in the same way. Talk with your partner about how they have dealt with money in the past and how they would like to do so in the future. Get a sense of where you agree. Get a sense of where your opinions differ. It helps to keep an open mind. Make regular conversations about money a part of your routine.
- Be specific. Once you start feeling more comfortable with the topic, identify how you hope to proceed as a couple. What will change after you've gotten married? What might change even before then? Make a specific plan and timeline around establishing joint accounts.
- Save up for your wedding. A good place to start your joint account adventure is with a savings account. Weddings are expensive. No matter how you slice that cake, costs add up quickly. Saving for something together is good practice, too. Set goals for your savings and be realistic about what each of you feels comfortable contributing.
- Consider a prenuptial agreement. You never know what the future holds. A prenuptial agreement doesn't mean you love each other any less, but it does mean a much easier process should you choose to stop being married at some point. A financial advisor can be a big help during this step and in general. Contact one of the trusted professionals at Columbia Bank for a consultation.
After the Wedding
- Joint accounts or not, the choice is yours. Every couple manages money differently. Some share it all from the very beginning, while others keep separate spending accounts or credit cards for their entire lives. Based on your individual comfort with shared accounts, as well as the information you've gathered in the time before you married, make the choice that's right for you. Columbia Bank has a variety of configurations to fit your needs. Perhaps you'd like to keep a joint savings account and a credit card for shared purchases, but you each want to maintain your own checking account, or open additional individual savings or business accounts. There's no wrong way to do it!
- Set a budget together. Whether or not you decide to combine accounts, you'll want to set a budget. Presumably, you and your partner will be together for a long time. It's important to start planning for that future early on. From daily spending to retirement goals, get it out there in the beginning.
- You don't have to combine debt. In many cases, it's actually a good idea to keep debt separate. Say, one partner has more credit card debt than the other. If you keep all of that debt on that partner's side, there is a better chance the other partner can maintain or build good credit, something you'll want to have sooner than later - homes, cars, kids, oh my! Student debt is tricky, too. Because student loans aren't erased in bankruptcy, you're stuck with them no matter what. If your spouse's name is on those loans and you die or get a divorce, your loved one will continue to be responsible for them.
- File taxes as a couple. Regardless of the date you marry, you're considered married for that entire tax year. So, you'll either file tax returns jointly or as married filing separately. Which you choose usually depends on what will be most financially beneficial to you. Usually filing a joint tax return will save you money, but in some cases this isn't true. If there is a big difference between incomes, you'll probably want to file jointly and you might even get a marriage bonus. However, if your combined income puts you in one of the four highest tax brackets, you may end up avoiding steep penalties by filing separately.
- There are always other things to think about. If you're a student, or planning to be a student, your marital status affects your eligibility for financial aid. Depending on your age and your spouse's income, you may even want to wait until after you finish school to get married. Learn more about the specifics of how marriage might affect your FAFSA application. Getting married also means you are now eligible to receive benefits from your spouse's employer. You'll also automatically inherit his or her assets, receive Social Security survivor benefits, and in some cases worker's compensation benefits should your partner pass away.