All Things Financial Planning Blog


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We’re Married. Now What?


With six wedding ceremonies to attend this year, 2012 has been the year of marriage celebrations for me. It’s an exciting time in many of my friend’s lives and I couldn’t be happier for them! However, as the months after the ceremony roll on, questions have been popping up as to the best way to merge finances, what debt to pay down first, what steps to take to change names, and what else is out there that they haven’t even considered. In hopes of assisting my friends along with the many other newlywed couples out there, below are some items to consider in the days and weeks after your marriage:

Name Change: Post wedding, make sure you obtain at least 3 copies of your official marriage certificate from the county clerk, which is where your name change will be indicated. You’ll begin the name change process by first obtaining a new social security card (visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov for more information). From there, visit the DMV to update your driver’s license and then move on to your passport, employer, voter registration, bills, bank accounts, etc. It may be helpful to make a list of all the accounts you’ll need to update.

Taxes: You and your spouse may begin to file your taxes as “Married Filing Jointly” in the year that you are married. Be sure to check in with your accountant as to if that is the best route for you two and update your withholding elections through your Human Resources department if appropriate.

Money Mergers: Hopefully you and your spouse had more than just one conversation about money pre-nuptials. Some things to consider in the days ahead are whether or not to open a joint account. If you decide to go this route, also discuss if you will maintain separate accounts or if everything going forward will be deposited into your joint account. Work out a detailed spending and savings plan and ensure the two of you are on the same page with how your money is being managed and spent.

Assets & Liabilities: Create a list of all of your accounts, including Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, checking, savings, and any other personal cash or investment accounts. Decide if any accounts (aside from retirement) should be consolidated and if you’d like to add each other to titles of cars, property, or any other assets. In addition, review your investments and take some time to adjust your allocations so that it is appropriate based on your combined goals. Also create a list of any outstanding debts such as: credit cards, student loans, mortgages, and car loans. Prioritize your debt re-payment plan by focusing on those balances with the highest interest rates first – likely your credit cards.

Insurance Needs: For items like car and health insurance, evaluate each of your plans and pick the better of the two. Your car insurance should provide the best coverage for the most reasonable price. For health insurance, ensure that your current doctors are available under your spouse’s plan or that you’re okay with making a change if necessary. With life insurance, first determine the amount of coverage needed by considering outstanding debt and the loss of household income that would occur should something happen to either you or your spouse. For young couples just starting out, look into term coverage, which should provide coverage at the most reasonable rate.

Beneficiary Update: An item that is commonly overlooked by newlyweds is the updating of beneficiary information. If you and your spouse determine that you’d like to name each other as beneficiaries, be sure to contact your HR department at work and any companies that hold a life insurance policy or retirement account for you to make necessary updates.

Estate Planning: In the months ahead, consider establishing Durable Power of Attorneys for finances and health care and creating a Will that addresses your combined assets and wishes.

The list above won’t address all of your financial concerns as newlyweds, but by taking the time to go through each item together and consulting your accountant, financial planner, or attorney, you will start your new marriage on a financially healthy road to success.

Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP®, CDFA
Senior Financial Planner
HoyleCohen
San Diego, CA


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5 Smart Steps When Planning for ‘I Do’


With Valentine’s Day behind us and spring approaching, there are undoubtedly some new engagements to celebrate and weddings on the horizon. Planning for your big day can be both exciting and stressful. There are questions to be asked, decisions to be made and money that ultimately is going to be spent. Though it may seem overwhelming at times, it is relatively easy to make informed and educated decisions throughout the process. Below are five key steps to take when planning:  

  1. Set a budget. Sit down with your fiancé and have a heart to heart about how much you’re willing to spend on your nuptials and the post ceremony celebration. Be sure to address any money you have already set aside, contributions you can count on from family, and then set a plan in place for saving the rest. It’s important to be realistic. Yes, weddings can be expensive, but that doesn’t make it mandatory to start your new marriage in debt. Compromising is key in planning and in building your lives together. If you need help tracking or estimating your spending, you can visit www.weddingplanningonabudget.com for a free wedding budget excel template.
  2. Pick your must-haves. Ask yourselves what are the one or two most important things to have on your wedding day. A good DJ? A great photographer? Perhaps you’re a self-proclaimed “foodie” and you’d like the meal to be the highlight of your reception. Pick the top two items that you’re willing to spend a little extra on and then adjust your spending in other categories from there, if necessary. If you need help or tips on how to save money, check out Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget.
  3. Set a date. Preferably one at least 6 months away. In order to ensure you have the most cost-efficient wedding, give yourself enough time to plan. Ask yourself if you really need to get married on a Saturday in the peak of wedding season? Why not be unique and plan a fall or winter wedding on a Friday or Sunday? In addition to savings funds from planning in the off-season, you’ll cut costs by booking an alternate day from Saturday.
  4. Create a registry that saves in other areas. When building your registry, decide what you would benefit most from. Consider using websites such as www.amazon.com, which let you build a universal registry and add selections from a variety of websites to one central location. Or perhaps you don’t need anything new and you’re looking to take a great honeymoon or do some re-modeling on your place. Check out www.honeyfund.com which allows you to price out parts of your honeymoon or non-honeymoon items for your guests to “purchase” for you. This fund links to your PayPal account and “gifts” are deposited directly into the account for you to spend how you wish.
  5. Communicate. Preparing for a wedding can be stressful, but so can planning for the rest of your lives together. Remember to check-in with each other often. Set aside some time on a weekly basis to discuss how the plans are coming along, if you’re on or off budget, and more importantly how you envision your future together.

These tips can be utilized when planning for other parts of your lives together as well. Any time you and your fiancé have a goal you’re working towards, remember the above. For example, if you’re looking to purchase a new car, your first step is to determine how much you are willing to spend. From there, pick your one or two must-have features and then look for ways to save in other areas (perhaps a Hybrid, which will save you on gas). Set a realistic date for purchase, which will allow you adequate time to search and save, and as always, communicate throughout the process.

By Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP®, CDFA
Special to FPA