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Especially for newlyweds: A financial planning checklist

A money discussion might not be the most romantic topic that comes to mind if you’re recently married or will be soon. But knowing where to begin — and what to do — can set your married life on a strong financial footing and help keep it solid for years to come. Start with this checklist of important financial to-do’s for newlyweds.

Money management

Having conversations about money early and often is one of the most important steps toward successfully managing both day-to-day and long-term finances. Make it a priority to keep an open line of communication and plan for long-term financial success with these steps:

  • Create a budget. Review your combined monthly earnings as well as how much you both spend each month. This is also a good time to discuss spending habits. Creating a budget together can help prepare you for major purchases in the future, such as a new car or new house. It can also help you both see where you may be able to trim expenses as a couple.

  • Manage debt. Prioritize together how you’ll pay off any debts you may have, such as student loans or credit card balances. Decide which debts to pay off first.

  • Set financial goals. Discuss your spending and saving goals, including both long- and short-term. For example, short-term goals might be saving for a house down payment or preparing for a family. Long-term goals might include retirement planning and saving. To help you stay on track, start building an emergency fund for unplanned expenses (like car or home repairs) so you won’t have to dip into savings or accrue credit card debt.

  • Decide who will manage day-to-day finances. Will you manage expenses jointly or maintain separate accounts? Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong way to determine which of you handles certain financial responsibilities. What’s important is that you have a plan in place to ensure bills like housing, utilities and credit cards get paid on time.

  • Create a system for record keeping. Develop a filing system that works for both of you. Make sure you both know where important financial records are kept and how to access account information and passwords.

Update or create important documents

After you’re married, be sure to review the following areas and make updates as needed:
  • If you changed your name after marriage, you’ll need to update your Social Security card, driver’s license, passport, bank and other financial accounts.
  • Review beneficiaries on documents like your 401(k) and life insurance plans, and update as needed.
  • Update insurance policies and ensure that you have enough coverage for your newly married state, especially if you’re combining assets. In addition to renters or homeowners insurance, consider a term life insurance policy.
  • Create a will to outline how you want your estate managed when you pass away.

Other financial considerations

Review the following areas to determine if you need to make any tweaks:
  • How will your marital status impact your tax filing status? Does it make more sense to file joint or separate returns?
  • Review your tax withholding with your employer and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Review your medical benefits to determine if it makes more financial sense for you and your spouse to be on the same plan versus individual plans.

Discussing and merging finances isn’t always easy. Communicating early and often, and putting a plan in place, can set you both up for money management success — now and for many years to come. If you have questions about money management, spending and saving, Commerce has tools to help you succeed. To learn more, stop by your nearest branch or contact us today.

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