By Roberta L Nestor
When Ward and June Cleaver left America’s TV screen, so did the financial simplicity of marriage. Today there are many different forms of marriage. There are first marriages, second marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships and common law marriages. Combine any of these marriages with merging bank accounts, credit cards, health insurance, taxes, retirement plans and life insurance and things get more complicated. Add some curve balls like alimony, child support, bad credit, debt and prenuptial agreements and things can get real messy. Welcome to today’s “modern family”!
Regardless of how your marriage may be categorized, the planning aspects for marriage include money management, housing, insurance planning, investment planning, retirement planning and estate planning. Do not expect to tackle all of these at once and be realistic, agree together which of these areas should be a priority. There are many decisions to make and trying to figure out all of these areas at one time will cause undue stress.
Merging finances is perhaps the most difficult; all of a sudden “your money” becomes “our money”. Start with a simple assessment of income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Each individual should make an inventory list and then, together combine the two inventories into one. Discuss joint checking and savings and the responsibilities for expenses and record keeping. Initially you might find that keeping separate checking accounts is easier, but periodically review these decisions to make sure they are working for both parties.
While insurance planning is important, your immediate focus should be on health insurance, especially with the myriad of changes that are happening with Obama Care. If each of you have health insurance available through your employer, it means comparing costs, benefits and consideration for longevity of employment. Self-employed individuals can pay hefty premiums and being able to go on a spouse’s employer plan can bring immediate financial relief. Life insurance, homeowner’s, automobile and disability insurance are all part of the process.
Combining investment and retirement planning will take time. It’s also an area that may be new to one of you, not everyone is investment savvy and being passive about saving in a 401k or other retirement plan is more common than not. Go back to that income, expense, asset and liabilities list. The good news is that there are plenty of financial advisors out there that can guide you not only with investment and retirement planning, but also with some of those insurance needs.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of marriage and planning is often the one that is most ignored and left for future years, and that is estate planning. A will, living documents such as power of attorney and appointment of one another as health care representatives are extremely important. If for some reason you or your partner is averse to making a Will, at least make sure you have the living documents and make sure you change your beneficiaries on any life insurance or retirement plans.
So, after all of these discussions, your next step is to assemble the best professional team you can. That means finding trusted advisors such as an attorney, tax preparer, insurance agent and a financial advisor that can guide you through the money matters of marriage. It’s just not that simple anymore.
Roberta L. Nestor is a financial advisor practicing at 491 New Haven Avenue in Milford, CT offering retirement, long term care, investment and tax planning services. She also offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network – a member FINRA/SIPC and a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products offered through Nestor Financial Network are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. Commonwealth Financial Network or Nestor Financial Network does not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation. Roberta can be reached at Nestor Financial Network, 203-876-8066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.