5 Financial Steps to Take as Soon as You Say “I Do”

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes stressing out about money. Here's how to focus more on the fun part and less on the stress.

A friend of mine just got married. She came back from her honeymoon to find an email from her financial adviser with a laundry list of money matters she hadn’t considered yet. Within the hour, she was  stressing over Google Chat with her new husband and watching the Internal Revenue Service’s YouTube channel. And they’re not alone. Saying “I do” is the start of a new financial lifestyle for most newly married couples. Here’s how to make sure your new family gets off on the right foot…

1. Consider Merging at least one bank account.

First things first: Decide on how you plan to manage the bills. Opening a joint checking account is the easiest way to pay your household expenses. With a joint checking account, both you and your spouse act as account holders, and you’ll both get full access to the account. After you open the account, set up direct deposit for your paychecks and make use of online bill-pay to simplify the monthly budgeting process.

That’s not to say that you’re required to merge all your accounts, or even one. Many couples find it desirable to maintain separate accounts as well as a joint account, or not to have a joint account at all. It’s a matter of personal preference. But as Mint puts it in this article, “Most financial consultants advise that while it’s okay to use separate accounts for day-to-day spending, it’s highly beneficial to keep some resources pooled.”

2. Add your spouse as an authorized user on your credit cards

Any credit accounts you had before the wedding remain in your name only. If you want your spouse to use your credit card, call your lender and request to add him as an authorized user. When you add an authorized user, your lender starts reporting the credit information on your spouse’s credit report as well as yours, which can give him a credit score boost. But recognize this comes with some risk attached. You and your spouse are equally responsible for the debt on any credit cards you share. So if you have the slightest concern about how your new partner manages credit, keep it separate.

3. Insure your wedding ring

Your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may not cover your wedding ring. According to The Street, a typical insurance policy has a $1,500 limit on jewelry. So check your policy and act accordingly. If you find that your coverage is inadequate, have your wedding ring (and any other jewelry you own) appraised. (The jeweler you bought it from should provide one free.) Then you can purchase a separate jewelry insurance policy, or add a rider to your existing homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to cover your ring.

4. Invest your gift cash

If you received any money in lieu of wedding gifts, invest it. The sooner you set it aside, the sooner it can start making you wealthier. You can put the money in a CD and earn a better return than you would if you left the funds in your savings account (see our savings search,) or you can invest it in the market (see our investment page.) It’s never too soon to start planning for you and your spouse’s retirement.

5. Profit off your duplicate household items

When you merge two households into one, you often end up with a lot of duplicate household items. Throw the wedding gifts on top of everything else, and you’re likely to have a pile of stuff you’re not sure what to do with. Why not just sell what you don’t want? Throw a garage sale, post ads on Craigslist or even run an ad in the classified section of the newspaper. Making a profit off the stuff you don’t need will feel a lot better than trying to cram two couches into one small living room.

Stacy Johnson

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