You just got married. Congratulations!
As the two of you begin your new life together, many fun activities beckon, including creating your wedding photo album, unpacking all the goodies you got from your registry and catching up on life now that your wedding planning is history.
But there are also some key financial logistics that should be squared away as you prepare for your life together.
To make your newlywed planning easier, we’ve put together a quick list of the top ten financial planning items to check off your list so you can set yourself up for financial zen in your first months of marriage.
- Add your spouse to bank and investment accounts, as necessary: Take a moment to ensure your partner has access to key financial accounts. Before doing so, also make sure you’ve completed any name change requirements to avoid administrative hiccups. To change your name, make sure you have an original or certified copy of your marriage license with the official seal, then use it to request and obtain a new social security card (at ssa.gov), driver’s license (at your local DMV), and passport (at https://travel.state.gov).
- Get life insurance: Should something happen to you, you’ll want to make sure your spouse will have enough financial coverage to lead a comfortable life. Unlike traditional life insurers who require lots of paperwork and meetings with agents, today there are online providers like Ladder, who make it easy and affordable. Ladder enables you to use a free life insurance calculator, get a quote and get an instant decision on coverage in under ten minutes. Getting it done when you are younger and healthy can even help save a lot of money in future.
- Change beneficiaries: Review your investment and savings accounts, 401(k) plans, IRAs, insurance policies (health, life, auto) or anything else that requires a beneficiary and add your spouse.
- Decide how you will file for tax purposes: You now have the option of checking the “Married” box on your tax forms. Discuss whether you will file jointly or continue to file separately.
- Update your health insurance: If you each have health insurance through an employer, you’ll want to compare the costs, treatment and benefit options to decide whose plan to use. If you’re the one changing health plans, make sure your doctors are providers under the new plan, or you can get doctors you like. Marriage is considered a qualifying life event for special enrollment, so you don’t have to wait for open enrollment in the fall to change plans. If you don’t have health insurance this is a good time to get it. You can look at the US Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov.
- Update your auto insurance: Consolidating your auto insurance into one policy often saves you money. Otherwise you should add each other to your auto insurance policies if you will be driving each other’s vehicles.
- Update renter’s or homeowner’s insurance: If you already have a policy in place to cover your valuables, check to see if your spouse has one as well. If there are two in play, you may want to drop one and consolidate everything to be covered under one plan.
- Create a will or trust: If something happens to you, you’ll want to make sure that your spouse and any future children are set up for success. You might want to check out services like Willing.com or Legalzoom.com to help you get started with an easy-to-fill out template.
- Do a financial health check: Since you will be operating a household together it’s good to do a quick sanity check to evaluate what your income and cash outflows (monthly expenses or debt payments like student loans or mortgages). If you’re not sure where to start, you can look for a budget worksheet and guide online.
- Decide who manages your finances: If you agree now on how you will manage your household finances, those responsibilities will be clear going forward and you will avoid confusion down the line. Which accounts will you use for which payments? Who will pay bills and who will manage investments? Is there a designated saver? Identify your strengths and decide accordingly.
Taking the time to address these items when you are newlyweds sets you up for smooth sailing in the years ahead. Life is an exciting adventure, so enjoy the ride!