So, you’ve gone to the chapel and gotten married. Maybe you even bought a white gown and said “I do” in front of hundreds of your closest friends and family. Look at you—you’re the picture of responsibility. But aside from having to merge your kitchen and bathroom decor, agree on which Netflix shows to watch, and pretend to like their cooking, there are a lot of parts of a relationship (many financial) that will change drastically once you get married.
We asked financial expert Alexa von Tobel, Founder and Managing Partner of Inspired Capital, about some of the financial pieces that’ll change big time once the big day is over and you’re done celebrating. If you’re curious about finances and budgeting after reading this, you can pre-order her book, Financially Forward: How to Use Today’s Digital Tools to Earn More, Save Better, and Spend Smarter, here.
1. Your Social Role
2. Your Taxes And Legal Paperwork
This is kind of a no-brainer for anyone that’s ever filled out a W-2, W-9, or 1099, but you can claim different things from our wonderful federal government now that you share your life with someone else. Dealing with a million different forms can seem daunting, but take it one step at a time. First, von Tobel says to make sure your spouse’s name is on all your paperwork. “If you don’t already have a living will and healthcare proxy, draw them up. Also, give your partner HIPAA authorization, so he or she can access your protected medical information. At work, right after you’re married, change your withholding on your W-4 form to add your spouse as an exemption.”
Next, ensure that when tax time rolls around, you’ve checked all the appropriate boxes so that you can reap the benefits of a nice, fat, tax refund (hopefully). “The next time you file your taxes, change your filing status to ‘married’ and decide with your spouse whether you should file jointly (the more common scenario) or separately,” von Tobel advises. “It is important to note that you often pay less in taxes if you file as a married couple rather than single-payer. However, when a combined income pushes you into a higher tax bracket, your permitted IRA contributions don’t increase proportionately.” In other words, the more money you make together, the less you’ll probably get back, and you may even owe. Thanks, America.
3. Your Insurance
The good news is that there’s really no need to freak out if you can’t get health insurance with your job, since your new SO may have you covered. “In addition to now doubling your health insurance options, marriage can provide other insurance benefits,” von Tobel explains. “For example, consider putting your cars on the same auto insurance. Data shows that married people are less likely to have car accidents, so insurance companies often give discounts for having two cars on the same policy. You should also consider getting life insurance for any spouse earning an income (because getting married normally creates some financial dependency between spouses),” she says.
Additionally, you may actually save a lot of money on both health and car insurance once you’re married. “When both spouses work full-time, you can choose between two different healthcare packages. To put it into numbers, couples spend on average $6,954 less per year than individuals!”
So, if you take nothing else away from this helpful info, know that getting married may make you less likely to rear-end someone while you’re checking Instagram and save you money. The more you know.
4. Your Debt
Mommy and daddy paid for your college career (hopefully sans bribery), and you’ve been basking in the debt-free “I have no student loans” life? Chances are, you’ve just inherited some! Great. “When it comes to debt, being open and honest with your partner is the only way to ensure financial stability. I suggest that couples sit down and actually have a discussion about their finances, including debt.”
So, if that sounds incredibly aggravating and terrible, Alexa advises couples to sit somewhere public which, I assume, will lessen the chances of crying, screaming, and general scene-making. “Come prepared with all the documents you think will help you have this conversation. It’s better to have the answers at your fingertips than to guess or leave the question unanswered. This means talking candidly about the amounts owed, interest rates, payment plans, and even your credit scores.” Sounds unromantic, but you really should be talking about this stuff well before you tie the knot.
5. Retirement Funds
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You may think that now that you’re married, you’ll reap some killer retirement funds later in life. Not so fast.
Retirement savings when you’re married are (surprise!) a little more complicated than that. “The effect of marriage on your finances and retirement depends on a whole host of factors: Do you both work? Do you both make enough to support yourselves? If one or both of you got laid off, could you still afford your rent or mortgage? Will you have children? If so, do you make enough that one of you can stay home with them? Bottom line: saving for retirement is nonnegotiable for both people in the marriage. Couples should work toward their retirement as part of their overall financial plan, with a goal of ensuring that your retirement savings are in both of your names and well-balanced.”
Get ready, because anything you buy together, like a house, is now on both of you. So, in the event that you get divorced, the worst part will actually be untangling yourself from joint ownership of the things you can no longer afford to keep on your own. Of course, there are different ways to approach how you’ll own property, cars, and other sh*t together that can make things easier down the road.
“Many couples go with a combine everything method, where you’re both all in and share everything completely. You can combine some, where most is mixed but you maintain some private accounts (like savings), or keep things completely separate. is my least favorite of the three, because I believe when couples are on the same page about their money, they ultimately have better relationships overall. It encourages you to work toward something together and build your dream life as a unit.” In other words, you’ll have to learn that sharing is caring, and have to deal with him raising his eyebrows if you blow your entire “fun money” budget on Taco Bell and Sezane dresses.
“All that said, it’s important to understand how property laws work where you live. Even if you decide to keep some things separate, a number of states have common property laws, which means that all assets earned during a marriage are owned 50/50, no matter what.” Real talk.
7. Your Emergency Contact And Beneficiary
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Hey, guess what: you better get really good at budgeting, since being married and sharing finances and budgets is going to be way different than when you only had to answer to yourself for your dumb expenditures. There’s good news, though–von Tobel says that married couples actually tend to save money when compared to non-married folks, since everything is essentially split in half.
“The way you decide to combine your finances plays a huge role in your day-to-day budgeting. A lot of couples go with the hybrid model, which you can think of ‘Yours, Mine, and Ours’. Set up a joint account for the ‘Ours’ fund and funnel 75 percent of your take-home pay here. This money allows you to spend together and covers shared expenses, like rent, utilities, groceries, and vacations. At the same time, each of you should put the remaining 25 percent of your take-home pay into your own account. This money is 100 percent in your hands—use it on nights out with friends, presents for your spouse, concert tickets, you name it. You work hard to have financial freedom, and this allows you to do so while still being part of a team.”
She recommends couples follow a 50/20/30 financial guideline, which breaks down your budget into three categories. She explains, “50 percent of your take home pay is spent on fixed costs (bills and expenses that don’t vary much from month to month, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, car payments, or gym memberships), 20 percent is spent on financial goals (paying down credit card debt, saving for retirement, building an emergency fund or budgeting for a financial goal) and 30 percent is spent on flexible spending (eating out, groceries, shopping, hobbies, entertainment, or gas).”
So, in case you needed convincing that getting married is about a hell of a lot more than the party and Instagrams, here it is. It may not be all fun, games, and staying in watching Netflix on the couch once you walk down the aisle, but obviously there are plenty of real benefits to marriage (aside from having a binge-watching buddy for life). And don’t let the above list stress you out. Take things one step at a time—and remember that now you have a partner to lean on so you can do all this sh*t together.
Images: Unsplash (2); Giphy (3)