Newly Married? Here Are Some Financial Changes to Make

This article is by Adam from Money Relationship. Subscribe to his site to get updates about his journey out of $150,000 in debt.

My wife and I got married last July in what turned out to be an amazing day. She looked beautiful, I looked stunning and we had a great time. The last thing on our mind that day was opening up a joint checking account or consolidating our auto insurance. However, as soon as we returned from the honeymoon, the focus shifted to getting things done. We moved into a new apartment and the week after that, I was heading off for five weeks of training. We had little time and a lot to do. So, for all of you newlyweds out there, I will make it easy for you and let you know what you should get done financially.

Talk to Human Resources

One of the first things we did was to add me to my wife’s benefits at work. When you have a life changing event such as marriage or having a child, you are allowed to change your benefits. This can save your a good chunk of change. I estimate that it saved us approximately $100 per month since I was on individual health insurance.

You should also change the beneficiaries on your benefits. Change the beneficiary of your life insurance and retirement plans to your new spouse.

Change Your Auto/Homeowners/Renters Insurance

Changing your auto insurance (or any insurance) and putting both of you names on one policy can save you a substantial amount of money. When my wife and I did this, I estimate that we saved about $1,000 over a year. My wife had a couple dents on her driving record and if she were to get insured by herself, it would have cost about $1,200 a year. Add that with my $1,000 policy and you are up to $2,200. When we went to purchase a policy together and they said our premium would be $1,200, I was shocked. I guess being married shows some responsibility!

Combine the Cash

People have different opinions on this, but I recommend getting a joint checking account. It forces you to keep each other accountable for the money that’s being spent.

Marriage is a team effort and your finances should be no different.

Have a Financial Meeting

Hopefully, you did this BEFORE getting married. Either way, you should sit down again and come up with a game plan. I recommend creating a financial mission statement. In it, you can set your financial goals, determine how you are going to achieve them and find ways to stay on track.

If you are bring debt into the marriage, the new living arrangements and two incomes can help free up a good amount of cash. Use that extra cash to pay off debt fast!

Update Your Wills

If you have a will or are bringing children into the marriage, make sure you update your will to document your new wishes. Obviously, as things change, so does your need for proper estate planning.

Well, there you have it. Those are the things that I came up with (and did). Can you think of other things that may need to get done or should be change with a new marriage?

Comments

  1. Hey Adam,

    An great and important post as always.

    I’m a pretty independent person so would find it very weird to combine cash if i reached the big M… Not opposed to it, would just take some time. However the financial benefits are clear.

    Thanks,

    Forest.
    http://frugalzeitgeist.com

  2. Well I’m sure there are a lot of things your wife had to go through if she changed her name. I’m not married so I don’t even know what it entails, but I’m sure it’s a lot of annoying paperwork. You have to get new identification for sure. Maybe someone else can comment on this?

  3. Yep, you’re right Hannah. My wife had to go through a ton of that stuff. I guess I just forgot since I didn’t have to do it!

    She had to change her name at work, the SS office, HR, the drivers license place and Facebook. It was kind of a pain and a little costly with all of the driving around.

  4. It was a huge pain!

    It took me a couple of weeks of errands and a few more weeks of waiting to get everything straightened out. When women talk to me about their upcoming nuptials and the fact they’re keeping their own name, I now understand…yuck.

    I’m glad I did it since my hubby is a traditionalist and it made him so happy, but I understand other women’s pov a bit more…

  5. This list is great. The only thing I can never figure out is why people wait until they’re married to do all of these things.

    If you’re planning to merge even a portion of your finances, it’s really best to start doing that well in advance of the wedding day since it’ll take you months to get into the groove of working together. As a bonus, if you do start the changes early, you might even find it easier to save for the event.

    Also, I live in Canada and we may be more liberal up here, but my partner and I were listed on each others’ benefits from the moment we became common law.

  6. We didn’t merge our accounts until we were married simply because of the name change problems…it would have added that many more errands to my list. We did already operate our finances jointly and talked about our goals, but we didn’t actually get the accounts until my name was legally changed (which you need the marriage certificate for in a couple of cases).

  7. @Krista: I agree that partners should discuss these things well in advance of marriage, but I recommend holding off on making things official until the knot is tied. If things don’t work out, for whatever reason, and the marriage never happens, untangling finances could be a real challenge since you are not going through a legal proceeding such as divorce.

  8. Talking to HR and combining insurance can be done before you are married in many cases–as long as you are living together. Richard and I have been living together for nearly 3 years and we combined car/renter’s insurance, cell phone plans (that’s a huge one, too), and health insurance (I’m covered under his work account.)

    For the health insurance, in CA, you’ll have to sign an affidavit of domestic partnership and get it notarized. This wasn’t a big deal–notarizing 2 signatures is $20–and it means cheaper health insurance than I would get alone.

    Some of these you might not want to do right away, especially if you haven’t been in the relationship for a long time. But once you’ve been in the relationship 6-8 months, and if you’re living together at that point, it’s worth it.

    Sharing living expenses is also nice, and saves on commuting back and forth. :)

    -Erica

  9. If you’re changing your name, you’ll need your credit and debit cards reissued. Keep in mind you may be without cards for a few weeks if they disable the old ones while you wait for the new ones.

    I did the name change twice and it was a pain both times. A few weeks before our wedding my husband casually asked what paper work was going to be required to change my name. Until that moment we had never discussed it. I wasn’t planning to change my name any more than I was planning to ask him to change his. He just assumed I would and I just assumed I wouldn’t. Long story short I changed my name since it seemed so important to him at the time. Two years later that rushed decision still wasn’t sitting right with me and I changed it back. Did the whole process again just to undo everything and go back to my own name. 25yrs later and I still use my own name, the kids have his last name, and all’s well. The up side is that people from highschool and university still call me out of the blue because I’m one of the few women they can find because I use my real name. Using my husband’s name is really just a social tradition and not a legal change. Just show your marriage certificate at the license bureau and get a new drivers license and car registration. Fax it to the CC company and get a card in a new name. To switch back I just showed my birth certificate to prove who I really was. As my lawyer once put it, you are the name on your birth certificate, everything else is just formalities.
    In Quebec you have to do a legal name change to use your husband’s last name so most women there don’t change their names. Using your husband’s name without doing the legal paperwork amounts to committing identity fraud.

  10. I would recommend that couple open the joint account before the wedding, even if they don’t put money into it yet. My husband and I didn’t do this and we had a very hard time depositing the checks that we received. The checks were writen to him, to me with my maiden name, to me with my presumed maried name (which was extra challenging since I didn’t change my name), and a variety of other combinations. In short, to deposit the checks into my checking account we had to stand at the teller counter, speak to 3 tellers and the manager, fingerprint my husband, and do some extra signatures. They told us that if we had already opened an account with both names on it, we would have been able to deposit all of the checks with no problem.

  11. I agree with everything, except the “Combine the Cash”.

    It’s nice to have some money seperate from your spouse, especially if you had it before the marriage.

    That said, we do have joint accounts where we have the vast (or at least I wish it was vast) majority of our money in.

    IMHO, It’s a personal choice, either way is okay…

  12. Great comments,
    We have been married since August 2008, and my understanding going in which still hold is that you just do not marry the person, you marry their money, weaknesses and strength.
    We had a financial pre-marital counseling and we understood where we were financially (deep in debt),but we decided from the word go that we will be using joint account. we merged our cash but did not close individual accounts that we had.. those accounts are mostly dormant but once in a while we put each of our allowances in those accounts.
    When i was reading about the will.. i found out that if one spouse dies and they have not spelled out those individual accounts it goes to probate and it can be a long process to have the funds released.

  13. I vote to combine the money if you are married. It is a demonstration of trust. Marriage isn’t about individuals but about a team. Managing the household’s income and expenses should be as well.

    If someone needs a thing that is just theirs, separate from the marriage, how about hobby that can save money around the house?

  14. We’ve always combined the cash, but we have friends who contribute to a joint account used to pay the bills. I know the people who keep it separate must have their reasons, but somehow separate=hidden in my mind. There’s nothing we spend money on that isn’t out in the open so why would it need to come from separate accounts? The only reasons that come to mind for separate accounts are either that you don’t want to have to justify some of the things you are spending on, or you make the higher salary and feel that anything you earn above your share of common expenses is yours to spend. Neither seems like a good basis for a long and healthy marriage.

    I find the biggest advantage of combining everything is first of all the simplicity of maintaining only one spreadsheet to plan, balance and track everything. Secondly, every week once I’ve updated all the actual expenses against the planned spending, I skim off all the excess and make an extra payment on the mortgage payment or to retirement savings. Because all the excess accumulates in one account it’s easier to identify and as a result we do something with it virtually every week. Smaller amounts accumulating in separate accounts might not seem worth dealing with. The sooner the extra gets moved to the mortgage or retirements accounts the sooner it has an impact.

  15. Adam, you covered all the important points. Since you’re not a woman, though, you missed all the name change hassle. @#2Hannah – I got married a year ago and it took several months to complete all the paperwork to change all my accounts (granted, I’m a working professional in my early thirties, so it would’ve been much easier were I fresh out of college). First, you have to wait until you have your certified marriage certificate, then you have to change your name with Social Security. Once you have your new SS card, you can update your driver’s license. Once you have that, you can update all your other accounts – bank checking/savings, credit cards, other loans, Paypal, passport, professional licenses, airline mileage, hotel rewards, Amazon express checkout (you get the point). It’s a massive undertaking, but better done shortly after getting married than waiting until you have your first child.

    @Krista – I completely agree w/ Adam. It’s best to discuss finances before you’re married, but to wait until after to actually combine accounts. Common law marriage may be legal in Canada and Australia, but here in the U.S. it depends on the laws of your state. For example, I live in a state where there is no common law marriage.

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