Stacy Bush, Valdosta Today Financial Contributor
Planning for marriage should involve more than just picking out invitations and deciding whether you should serve chicken or fish at the reception. More importantly, you’ll want to take a look at how marriage will impact your financial situation. And while there are a number of issues you’ll need to think about, careful planning can increase the likelihood that you’ll have financial success as you enter this new chapter in your life.
Discuss your financial history
Marriage is the union of two separate individuals … and their finances. While talking about money can be a stressful topic for many couples, you’ll want to sit down and discuss your financial history and your future spouse’s financial history before you merge your money.
Start out by taking stock of each of your respective financial situations. You should each make a list of your individual assets (e.g., investments, real estate) and any liabilities (e.g., student loans, credit card debt) you may have. This is also the time to address items such as how much each of you earns and if either of you has additional sources of income (e.g., interest, dividends).
Map out your financial future together
An important part of financial planning as a couple is to map out your financial future together. Where do you see yourself next year? What about five years from now? Do you want to buy a home together? If you decide to start a family, would one of you stay at home while the other focuses more on his or her career?
Together you should make a list of short-term financial goals (e.g., paying off wedding debt, saving for graduate school) and long-term financial goals (e.g., retirement). Once you have decided on your financial goals, you can prioritize them by determining which ones are most important to each of you. After you’ve identified which goals are a priority, you can set your sights on working to achieve them together.
Consider integrating employee and retirement benefits
If you and your future 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. If your future spouse’s health plan has a higher deductible and/or co-payment or fewer benefits than those offered by your plan, he or she may want to join your health plan instead. You’ll also want to compare the premium for one family plan against the cost of two single plans.
In addition, if both you and your future spouse participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you should be aware of each plan’s characteristics. Plans may differ as to matching contributions, investment options, and loan provisions. Review each plan together carefully and determine which plan provides the better benefits. If you can afford to, you should each participate to the maximum in your own plan.
Stacy Bush has practiced independent financial advising in the Valdosta area for 14 years. Growing up on a farm in Donalsonville, Georgia, he is keen to the financial needs of South Georgia and North Florida families. Stacy and his wife, Carla, live in Valdosta with their four children. You can submit questions about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org