David Lerner Associates: Managing Money and Marriage
Getting married is exciting, but it brings many challenges. One such hurdle that you and your spouse will need to face is how you can combine your financial resources. Planning carefully and communicating clearly are important, because the financial decisions that you make now can have a lasting impact on your future.
Discuss your financial goals
The initial step in mapping out your financial future together is to discuss your financial goals. Start by making a list of your short-term goals (e.g., paying off wedding debt, new car, vacation) and long-term goals (e.g., having children, your children's college education, retirement). Then, identify which goals are most crucial to you. Once you've determined the goals that are a priority, you can focus your energy on achieving them.
Prepare a budget
Next, you should prepare a budget that lists all of your income and expenses over a certain interval (e.g., monthly, annually). You can designate one spouse to be in charge of managing the budget, or you can take turns keeping records and paying the bills. If both you and your spouse are going to be involved, make sure that you develop a record-keeping system that both of you understand. And remember to keep your records in a joint filing system so that both of you can easily locate important documents.
Start by listing your income sources (e.g., salaries and wages, interest, dividends). Then, list your expenses (it may be helpful to review several months of entries in your checkbook and credit card bills). Add them up and compare the two totals. Hopefully, you get a positive number, meaning that you spend less than you earn. If not, review your expenses and see where you can reduce your spending.
Bank accounts-- separate or joint?
At some point, you and your spouse will have to decide whether to combine your bank accounts or keep them separate. Maintaining a joint account does have advantages, such as easier record keeping and lower maintenance fees. However, it's sometimes more difficult to keep track of how much money is in a joint account when two individuals have access to it. Of course, you could avoid this problem by making certain that you tell one another every time you write a check or withdraw funds from the account. Or, you could always decide to maintain separate accounts.
If you're considering adding your name to your spouse's credit card accounts, think again. When you and your spouse have joint credit, both of you will become responsible for 100 percent of the credit card debt. Additionally, if one of you has poor credit, it will negatively impact the credit rating of the other.
If you or your spouse does not get approved for a card as a result of poor credit, and you are willing to give your spouse account privileges anyway, you can make your spouse an authorized user of your credit card. An authorized user is not a joint cardholder and is therefore not liable for any amounts charged to the account. Also, the account activity won't appear on the authorized user's credit record. But remember, you remain responsible for the account.
If you and your spouse have separate health insurance coverage, you'll want to do a cost/benefit analysis of each plan to see if you should continue to keep your health coverage separate. For instance, if your spouse's health plan has a higher deductible and/or co-payments or fewer benefits than those offered by your plan, he or she may wish to join your health plan instead. You'll also need to compare the rate for one family plan against the cost of two single plans
It's a smart idea to examine your auto insurance coverage, too. If you and your spouse own separate cars, you may have different auto insurance carriers. Consider pooling your auto insurance policies with one company; many insurance companies will give you a discount if you insure more than one car with them. If one of you has a poor driving record, however, make certain that changing companies won't mean paying a higher premium.
Employer-sponsored retirement plans.
If both you and your spouse participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you should understand each plan's characteristics. Review each plan together carefully and determine which plan provides the most ideal benefits. If you can afford it, you should each participate to the maximum in your own plan. If your current cash flow is limited, you can make one plan the focus of your retirement strategy. Here are some helpful tips:
- If both plans match contributions, determine which plan offers the best match and take full advantage of it
- Compare the vesting schedules for the employer's matching contributions
- Compare the investment options offered by each plan-- the more options you have, the more likely you are to find an investment mix that suits your needs
- Find out whether the plans offer loans-- if you plan to use any of your contributions for certain expenses (e.g., your children's college education, a down payment on a home), you may want to participate in the plan that has a loan provision
Material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to be used in connection with the evaluation of any investments offered by David Lerner Associates, Inc. This material does not constitute an offer or recommendation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.
David Lerner Associates does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances.
To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.
These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable-- we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.
Some of this material has been provided by Broadridge Investor Communications Solutions, Inc.
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Founded in 1976, David Lerner Associates is a privately-held broker/dealer with headquarters in Syosset, New York and branch offices in Westport, CT; Boca Raton, FL; Teaneck and Princeton, NJ; and White Plains, NY. For more information contact David Lerner Associates Cal 516-921-4200 Visit our website: http://www.davidlerner.com
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