Just Married! Now what?

The rings are on, the wedding cake is in the freezer, and you and your spouse are beginning your new life together. You were just married! If you thought getting through the wedding with the family was a challenge, now you have to begin to build a life together and that includes some important financial decisions. Here are some things you should do right before the wedding or very soon after you say “I do.”

Name Changes

In today’s society, some women chose not to change their last name to their husband’s, choose to hyphenate both last names. When getting the marriage license, some counties will ask the bride (or the groom!) which name they’ll want to go by after the wedding. Those who choose to change their name have a few headaches, but in most cases the switch should be easy. But don’t delay in making the change—most states only give you 60 days to do so.Select states, such as Georgia, require a birth certificate, copy of the marriage license and proof of residency before you can even get a new license. As for your Social Security card, you can brave a trip to your nearest office or simply mail in a certified copy of your marriage certificate.

Your credit cards should be a bit easier, according to MintLife. Many companies will allow you to fax or email a copy of your marriage license, but other credit card issuers may request to see your new ID in person.

Establishing Joint Accounts

Although many do, you are not required to share accounts with your spouse. Some couples, especially older couples who are not marrying for the first time, don’t want the hassle of closing established accounts and beginning new ones. You can easily give your spouse access to your account by giving him or her power of attorney. This will allow your spouse to dispute charges and report the card lost or stolen, if needed. As for your credit cards, you may just choose to add your spouse as an authorized card holder. The primary card holder will still be responsible for the debt.

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Insurance Changes

Life insurance: Newlyweds don’t like to think about life insurance but this is the time to do so. The longer you wait to set up a plan, the higher your payments will be. If you wait until your spouse has a serious health problem, you may not be able to get life insurance at all. For those “extra-prepared” people who already have life insurance, you may want to change the beneficiary to your spouse.

Health insurance: Even if both spouses have health insurance through their employers, it’s good to take a look at each policy together and see if money could be saved by making changes. One spouse may have cheap health insurance but have a high deductible. It might make sense to combine policies to get a lower deductible, even though you may pay more as a couple just to get it. Also, if your company doesn’t have a dental plan but your new spouse’s company does, see if you can get on the dental plan only. Most companies have certain enrollment times but will allow you to make changes if you marry.

Car insurance: Newlyweds can save quite a bit of money on their car insurance. Not only do some companies offer a multi-vehicle discount, but changing from “single” to “married” can bring savings galore.

Taxes as a Newlywed

According to the IRS, even if you get married on December 31, you are considered married for that entire year. But you don’t have to file a joint return just because you are married. Try choosing “married filing separately,” and do some math to see what saves the most money. According to the IRS, most couples find it is better to file a joint return. You may also be required to fill out a different form than you’re used to. A 1040EZ is great for single people with no assets and few deductions but as a married couple, you may have to use the standard 1040 form.

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Develop a Budget

As newlyweds you are inevitably focused on the future ahead of you. What’s next? A big move? Children? You may dream of owning a home or opening a small business. It is important that you sit down with your new spouse and create a financial plan and a budget, and outline your future financial goals. How much money do you need to save to pay off debts and save for a new house, car or luxury item?

You may decide that one person is better than the other at managing the finances and maintaining the budget. In turn, you may also decide that sharing the responsibilities is a joint effort. Making the decision early in your marriage can save arguments and headaches in the future.

Finally, you or your spouse may have had financial problems in the past. Just because you married someone with bad credit doesn’t mean your credit will be affected outright. However, when applying for a new loan as a couple, your spouse’s credit will be considered and could make you ineligible. If this is the case, work on improving their credit score and maintaining yours. This will allow you to obtain loans on your credit until you can apply for joint accounts.

You may not have gone through extensive premarital counseling, or sat down with an accountant prior to booking the reception hall. You probably didn’t even give a second thought to a prenuptial agreement in case of the unexpected. But if you were just married, insurance, taxes, and developing a budget should be sorted out as soon as possible.

This article was written by staff writer Kim Sloan. Her mission is to help fight your evil debt blob and get your personal finances in tip top shape.
Copyright © 2013 Kim Sloan
Photo: Thomas Johansen