Marriage and Finances: How to Plan for a Smooth Transition

Finding common ground about financial decisions is one of the first and most important challenges you and your new spouse will tackle. But despite what you may have heard, coming to an understanding about marriage and finances doesn’t have to end with one of you spending the night on the couch. With a little planning and preparation, it can actually be a fairly painless process.

Combining Bank Accounts

You probably want to start by opening a joint checking account for the money that you’ll manage together. To close old accounts, first change any automatic payments and deposits so they go through the new account. Then, transfer the money from your old accounts to the new one and request that the old accounts be closed.

Sharing Credit Cards

You can keep using separate credit cards after your wedding, but there are reasons to share a card. For example, you might want to be able to see each other’s purchases, which helps encourage transparency as it relates to financial decision-making. You might want to help your spouse build credit, or you could be preparing to run a family business together. In any case, you have two options for sharing a card — add your spouse as an authorized user or apply for a card together as joint cardholders.

Adding your spouse as an authorized user helps them build credit, while the responsibility for paying the card still falls on your shoulders. Whoever is responsible for the debt isn’t that important if you’re sharing your money. But if you want an arrangement where you both have equal responsibility for the card, you should go the joint cardholder route. To do that, you’ll need to apply for a new card together.

Changing Names on Accounts

Are you changing your name after you’re married? Then you get to do some extra paperwork! You’ll need to bring a certified copy of your marriage certificate to your Social Security office to apply for a new Social Security card. Then, head over to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get an updated driver’s license or other ID card. Once you’ve got your new ID, you can show it to your bank and other creditors, your landlord, employer and utility and insurance companies.

Sharing Health Insurance

With the phrase “in sickness and in health” comes your cue to think about combining health insurance. Whether adding one spouse to the other’s health insurance is the right move or not depends on the math. If you both have insurance, compare premiums, deductibles and copays to see if dropping one of your plans would save money.

Let’s say you choose to add your spouse to your insurance. If you’re covered through your employer, talk to your HR department and let them know you want to add a spouse. If you have an individual plan, you have 60 days from the date of your marriage to enroll your spouse, according to HealthCare.gov.

Filing Taxes

Lastly, you’ll need to decide whether to file your taxes jointly or separately. There are many calculations that can go into that decision, so it’s a good idea to speak to an accountant or tax advisor (unless you’re a tax whiz yourself). Then, tell your HR department so your employer will withhold the correct amount from your earnings.

While nobody wants to think about bank accounts on a honeymoon, handling these changes during your first month or so of marriage will get them out of the way so you can avoid hassles later.

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