Getting Married? Talk Over Finances

Getting married later in life brings a host of added concerns about finances

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Wedding CakeIf wedding bells are in your future, have a frank talk about finances with your sweetheart. Although discussing money may seem gauche, it’s important that you and your soon-to-be spouse are on the same page.

Diana Apostolova, financial consultant with AXA Advisors, LLC in Rochester, said that although the traditional vows say “for richer or poorer”, that’s the extent of money talk many couples engage in.

People about getting married later in life should discuss how independent they want to be with their money, she said.

“If you choose to keep a joint checking or savings account for paying bills and emergencies, it is still important to have a separate checking account to allow you some financial freedom,” Apostolova said.

You’ve been accustomed to spending money however you wish; however, since you’ll share bills with your spouse, it’s important to not miss payments. As another option, you could divide bills between you so that one pays for the auto insurance, utilities and car repairs, and the other purchases food, entertainment, property taxes and health care expenses, for example.

Discuss any debt and your credit history. It may feel embarrassing disclosing that you owe money or suffered a bankruptcy, but getting married means you legally take on your spouse’s financial burdens.

“No credit cards should be hidden, as unwanted debt can build up,” Apostolova said.

Saver or Spender?

Everyone possesses a financial style. It’s not unrealistic that a saver and spender find bliss, as long as both accept and respect the other’s perspective. Share your goals and what’s important to you so that you can create happy compromises as needed.

“Whether you do this with a financial adviser or within the four walls of your house, this will be one of the major building blocks to getting your finances in order,” Apostolova said.

Talk about your money history, both in your childhood and adulthood. These experiences shape how and why we use our money the way we do. For instance, someone who grew up with little money may feel uncomfortable taking financial risks that could endanger their nest egg.

Adam Mark, partner and certified financial planner with Wealth Management Group in Rochester, wants couples to consider their legacy.

“Will each of the new spouse’s half go to their respective children?” he asked. “Typically, it’s not as easy as with one set of kids and grandkids.”

Typically, most couples keep their inheritable assets separated after marriage.

“It’s really about effectively coordinating with their legal and financial guidance because you’re taking two household situations in a very different situation,” Mark said.

After hammering out the details with a financial adviser and attorney, a meeting with the family allows couples to share their decisions beforehand. That helps dissipate any disappointment before either dies, which is a time already fraught with emotion.

Jeff Feldman, certified financial planner and owner of Rochester Financial Services, wants more couples who wed later to obtain long-term care insurance to protect their assets should one spouse require nursing home care.

Couples should also think about their social security status.

“If one of the two wasn’t eligible, you may be eligible for 50 percent of your spouse’s Social Security,” Feldman said. “But if you are divorced and you were set up to get your ex’s Social Security, getting married might negate that. Know the rules before you get married.”

Discussing your finances with a financial advisor and tax attorney can help you make the right decisions to protect your future together.