Top Ten Marriage Starter Plan Tips (Even If You’re Late to The Party)
This year has put a wrench in a lot of people’s plans. There have been canceled parties, family holidays, and vacations. That said, couples’ weddings plans may have been the most impacted by this pandemic. I’ve seen tons of clients’ children postpone. Even my right-hand man, Tom Ervin, postponed his wedding, and after postponing his wedding once, my very good friend and partner, David Levy, just pulled off a small, intimate wedding to the love of his life.
I couldn’t be happier for David, as he found a truly incredible partner. It’s great seeing your close friend so happy. This blog is inspired and dedicated to the newlyweds, Mr. & Mrs. David Levy!
Alright, so the other nugget worth sharing is that David and I happen to be each other’s, financial planners. Yes, even financial planners benefit from a third, unbiased party giving advice. I often consult David as a sounding board for thoughts and ideas. And, he’ll do the same with me. It’s an extremely helpful collaboration.
Because of that, I figured I’d write an article addressing all those getting married and the first things to address financially as a couple. I’ll preface that, although I am addressing newlyweds here (so feel free to share with your children), there are plenty of us “old married folks” that could benefit from this advice.
Top Ten Marriage Starter Plan Tips:
Discuss Financial Goals –
In a fledgling marriage, the couple must begin with an open and honest dialogue about financial and life goals. As the old saying goes: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. What better exercise is there to snuggle up with a bottle of wine and talk about your future together. Try to repeat this exercise quarterly, or at least annually, to make sure you’re still aligned. By doing so, you can begin to formulate a plan to accomplish all your dreams. It’s crazy how many times when I ask this question of couples, new and old, where it’s the first time they’ve ever given it some thought.
Time to Lawyer Up –
In a good way, that is. Get those estate planning documents in place. You’ll need a will, power of attorney, and health care proxy to name a few. This is something that should be addressed every few years (and especially when there is a major life change—like marriage). Again, I have 60-year-old, lawyer clients who come into my office without these documents, so this advice is important for us all.
A Life Insured is a Life Assured –
Now that you’re married, there’s likely someone who is dependent on your financial contributions for the first time ever. It’s no longer just about you, so time to take responsibility for that. You see it all the time—events at fire halls or GoFundMe pages—dedicated to raising money for a family in a financial crisis due to a lost loved one. You never want to be the family, so get that insurance and get it now. Get more than you think you’ll need. Remember, it’ll never be less expensive than it is today.
Join Your Finances –
Not every couple is 100% comfortable joining all their finances together, which is fine. But there are certainly some steps that should be taken, like setting up a joint checking account for family expenses. Even if you aren’t joining everything, you can plan jointly and review where you both are on a regular basis. (Hint, hint—a good financial planner can help with this, too.)
Update Beneficiaries –
Every year, clients come in and it’s a realization that they’ve been married for 20 years, yet one of them still has their mother as the beneficiary of their work 401(k) plan (or something akin to that situation with another old account). Not that we all don’t love our mothers, but use this life-changing event to update all your beneficiaries to your new spouse. It will make life a million times easier should tragedy strike.
Its Budget Time –
(Or should I call this Andrew’s Confession Time.) Whenever I’m asked what changed when I got married, I always answer the same way. I tell people it’s the first time that I had to be responsible for someone else (and vice versa), especially when it comes to expenses. Before marriage, if my fiancé wanted to spend $1,000 on a pair of shoes, I felt no right to chime in. Once we got married, however, that changed. What she spent affected me and what I spent affected her. I think it’s critical for new and old couples alike to spend some time creating a budget, even if it’s a loose one at that.
Review Your Benefits –
Does it make sense to go on your spouse’s health insurance plan? What is offered at your work and are you utilizing it? Getting married is a life event that usually gives the ability to adjust some of your benefits before the open enrollment period. I’d suggest doing some real due diligence here, as there might be real savings to be had.
Some say the best thing about getting married is the ability to file a joint tax return. (Now, those people probably aren’t still married, but it is a nice benefit nonetheless.) This is a great time to consult with a CPA to discuss how getting married may benefit you from a tax perspective.
Talk Investments –
Is your spouse really conservative when it comes to investing and are you an aggressive investor? This isn’t necessarily a problem, but you gain a lot of insight and clarity when you understand how your spouse is investing. I recommend a global family allocation that balances all your goals, wishes, and comfort level. Maybe you can even invest more aggressively because your conservative spouse has plenty of safer investments to offset you. In the end, there’s no way to know this without reviewing it regularly and holistically.
Have an Emergency Fund –
It’s important for you both to have enough squirreled away in an emergency fund. (Heck, those wedding gifts may even give you a good start.) Even if one of you was set before marriage, you probably have to address the appropriate amount in liquid, easily-accessible funds. Generally speaking, 3-6 months’ worth is a good start, but do some analysis to get the right amount for you.
Bonus Advice Just for David Levy –
Have lots and lots and lots of babies. They’ll bring you indescribable joy (and are a terrible financial decision). That said, the dividends of fulfillment they’ll bring you through your life can’t be overstated. It was the single (or triple) best thing I’ve ever done. (Ironically, David informed me that he and his wife, who once wanted 6 children, are now down to wanting 2, as every time they visit the Rosen compound, they end up losing a child from their wish list!) I’m not certain about many things, but of this I’m confident—you will make fantastic parents.
David, I have availability next week for a consult (and I’ll even waive my fees, just for you). Wishing you and Alicia a lifetime of wealth, health, and happiness. (Oh yeah and lots and lots of babies!) Love you guys!