So much goes into planning a wedding that once it finally happens you breathe a big sigh of relief and look forward to getting on with a “normal” life. At least that’s how I felt. My wedding finally came and went a little over a week ago. Everything went smoothly and a great time was had by all. You don’t realize how stressful the planning process is (even to a laid back guy like me) until it’s over and you can finally stop thinking about it!
Unfortunately, the wedding only signals the beginning of important decisions and changes that will need to be made rather quickly. Seeing as I’m going through it all now, I thought it might be helpful to others to have a guide to the financial moves that need to be made after you both have said “I do”.
The Post-Wedding Financial To-Do List
While heading off to the honeymoon is all I want to be doing right now, I’ve (we’ve) had to spend the past week having some important conversations and making some big decisions. Unfortunately the world outside doesn’t give you much of a “honeymoon” period before you have to make some of the following financial decisions.
1. Make Changes to Your Health Insurance Benefits
The good news is, getting married is considered a “qualifying event” in the eyes of the insurance companies. Which means you don’t have to wait until the traditional open enrollment period to make changes to your coverage. The bad news is that you only have 30 days from the date of your wedding to make the changes. So if you’re going to add your spouse to your coverage, cancel your coverage and join your spouses, or make any other changes. You have to decide, and act fast.
In my case, I’ll be leaving my employer’s health plan and joining on with my lovely bride’s plan. Before we decided to make this change, we compared the coverage both plans offered, the cost of adding an additional person to the plans, and if we’d be better off staying on our own separate plans and making no change at all. In the end, it helps marrying someone who works for an insurance broker. Her coverage was cheaper and more comprehensive than mine. Not only will I be getting an upgrade in coverage, but we’ll be saving ourselves money in the process!
2. Change Your Payroll Tax Withholding
Getting married probably also means a big change come tax season in the spring. For most couples, filing jointly as a married couple will actually lower your bill from Uncle Sam (high earning couples may end up paying more – the dreaded marriage penalty tax). Changing your filing status and what gets withheld from your paycheck is relatively simple. For me, I logged on to our company HR website and clicked a button to change from ‘Single’ to ‘Married’ filing status. Some of you may have to actually talk to your HR representative, but I promise that’s not as painful as it sounds!
3. Open a Joint Checking Account
Between our engagement and the wedding I wondered if we should combine our finances or keep things separate after getting married and received a lot of great insight from readers in the comments to that post. That, combined with conversations with married friends and relatives, and most importantly, talking it over with my future spouse led me to the decision that combining our finances 100% was the best option for us.
Even if you don’t choose to combine your finances 100%, opening a joint account is probably still a good move for a reason I never even thought about until the day after the wedding. You see, many of your wedding guests will probably give you very generous gifts in the form of a check. Most of them will also make that check out to “John and Jane Doe” which can cause some problems if you have separate accounts. Your bank may not let you deposit the check made out to both of you if only one is on the account. The same problem may occur if the bride hasn’t yet, or isn’t planning on taking the husbands last name and the wedding check is made out to “Mr & Mrs Smith”. This is what I’m worried about at the moment. Our joint account was opened using her maiden name, as she isn’t planning on changing it until after we arrive back from our honeymoon (in order to avoid passport issues). Just about every check we received was made out to both of us, using my last name. I can promise that any problems we run into depositing them this week will make for an entertaining post!
4. Update Your Beneficiaries and Important Documents
I’m assuming that the person you just pledged to spend your life with will be the one you’ll want receiving the benefits of your insurance policies and retirement accounts should you meet an early demise. If so, now is the time to go ahead and make your new husband or wife the beneficiary to those benefits if you haven’t yet done so.
If you have a will, it might be a good idea to update it to add in your spouse or come up with a new will for the both of you if that’s something you want to do early on in life. Adding your spouse to your mortgage, auto insurance, utility bills etc… is something else to be considered if you aren’t already living together and sharing those responsibilities.
5. Create and Maintain an Open Dialogue Regarding Your Finances
If you’ve made it to the point where you’re getting married, I hope you’ve already had a few talks about money and finances. Money causes problems in so many relationships that it’s best to be as open and honest about it all right from the start. If you haven’t created an open dialogue around your finances as a couple yet, it doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. With all these post-wedding money decisions that need to be made there will be ample opportunity to get the conversation started.
The wedding is just the beginning of your life together and these decisions are just a few of the first financial decisions you’ll have to make together. Congrats on making it this far, and best of luck to all you newlyweds in the future! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a honeymoon to leave for!
Readers: What other financial decisions did you have to make as newlyweds? What is the best piece of advise you can give someone from what you learned?