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Money & Culture

Forget the Rules—Make Your Own Financial Marriage

April 29, 2015
Forget the Rules—Make Your Own Financial Marriage

Once upon a time, a man and a woman got married and lived predictably ever after. They bought a house, had children, and maybe even bought a dog named Scout. They also had joint checking, savings, and investment accounts. Why wouldn’t they? That’s the way it was supposed to happen.

Today, couples are increasingly questioning assumptions about what marriage looks like, and they have greater freedom to chart their own unique course. One aspect this applies to is how couples handle marriage and money. Whether you’re engaged or have been married awhile, it’s worth evaluating whether conventions serve you as a couple or if another approach better meets your lifestyle and goals.  

Will your money get married when you do?

If you're heading toward a committed relationship, it's the ideal time to discuss how much of your money you’ll join and how much you’ll keep separate. Since merging accounts is the easy, conventional choice, you probably already know the benefits. But in some cases, it may feel better to have a joint household account with separate checking accounts for smaller, everyday personal expenses. If you take this approach, just be open with each other about your personal accounts to avoid financial infidelity.

As with your checking accounts, you may also consider a hybrid approach to investing. Each spouse could keep their pre-marriage investments separate, while establishing additional joint investments. Here are a few things to consider:

  • There may be benefits to keeping separate accounts. Doing so may help you avoid the tax consequences of changing from individual to joint ownership. And you can continue investing without necessarily considering each other’s philosophies and risk tolerance.

  • Even accounts that can’t be merged can reflect your marriage. While you can’t join IRAs or Roth IRAs, you can designate your spouse as a beneficiary. Plus, it may be helpful to agree on a strategy for how individual contributions can support your joint retirement.

  • Investing together can give you a shared sense of ownership in your future. By setting up an investment account together, you’re both taking responsibility for achieving your dreams. For ideas on which types of accounts may be best for you two, visit with your local Investment Consultant. They can help you sort through your options with a free, objective evaluation.

For better or net worth

If you’ve been married for several years, it might seem easiest to stick with the seemingly automatic decisions you made as newlyweds. But ask yourselves if these decisions reflect who you are today. You can—and should—deviate from convention if it doesn’t work for you. Nothing needs to be set in stone, and you can re-evaluate anytime.

One thing you may want to keep in place is provisions for any joint accounts. Most of these accounts automatically include rights of survivorship to allow your spouse to have full rights if something happens to you. If you’re unsure, check with your bank or financial advisor.

By rethinking assumptions about marriage and money, you can take a more distinctive approach to your finances—one that’s as unique as your relationship.

For love and money

Start defining your financial future. We have a variety of accounts to help you work toward your goals.

Take a look at our options to see which ones will help you move toward the kind of future you and your spouse want.

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