How to Handle Post-Wedding Finances

Sam Kayuha

If life is a series of tests, one of the most challenging is the handling of finances. And because marriage is a partnership, tackling this challenge should be a team effort consisting of careful consideration and planning.

Local financial advisers agree that communication is key. In regard to account sharing, budgeting and general monetary philosophy, putting everything on the table before marriage is the best option.

“You'll want to think about what life will be like day to day,” says Chris Powell, head of checking and deposits for Citizens Bank. “If you're marrying a person who came from a different background or lifestyle, talking about it will help you understand their habits and expectations.”

According to Amy Weldele, a senior wealth manager at Budros, Ruhlin and Roe, conversations should primarily center around how to handle wills, trusts and credit cards, as well as emergency and retirement funds. The changes in income tax that come after marriage should also be considered.

Krista Cavalieri, the owner and lead adviser of Evolve Capital, says that although one spouse often takes the financial reins, it is important for the other to stay informed and involved.

“One day the other spouse may be forced to take over, and not having an idea of how things have been handled can prove disastrous,” Cavalieri says. Knowing the states of checking, savings and investment accounts, as well as debts and how bills are paid, is crucial.

Often overlooked is the issue of titles and beneficiaries. Cavalieri says to be sure that both spouses' married names are on all such accounts.

“I have seen this many times, where accounts are still in maiden names years after the marriage,” Cavalieri says. “Account beneficiaries on IRAs, 401(k)s and life insurance need to be updated. Without going through this exercise, the [surviving] spouse may be left with little access to money or in court fighting over it.”

While no one enters a marriage anticipating divorce, prenuptial agreements are another topic to consider; they cover issues that arise during divorce proceedings before they become necessary. The agreements address the spouse's right to property and other assets in the event of divorce.

The possible end of a marriage is not a pleasant conversation to have, but it is an important one, especially, according to Weldele, when at least one of the spouses is coming to the marriage with inherited assets or family money.

“It can be used as healthy conversation, a starting point where you can lay out what you bring to the marriage,” Weldele says.

Sure, financial planning is a lot less fun than cake tasting and song selection. But it should be an important part of your wedding planning process in the months between your engagement and wedding day. Taking care of such topics now will help ensure that your elated, just-got-married sentiments last as long as possible.