Finances are one of the main stressors of relationships, so it is wise to enter your union with a full picture of each other’s financial situation.
If you are unfamiliar with your sweetheart’s credit profile, you may want to go over this with each other. If there are outstanding collections or credit issues prior to marriage, they can affect the two of you negatively in the future. If you have a joint bank account and wages or assets get garnished for outstanding taxes or debts, then the issue becomes a joint issue. If you want to buy a home together, but one of you has a low credit score, your interest rate would be based on the lower of the two scores and could affect your total interest paid over the life of the loan.
Sit down with your partner and lay all the financial cards on the table, from monthly spending to future goals. Talk to each other about your money management styles and really understand the way each of you thinks about money. So often, we are afraid to bring up touchy subjects and we even avoid them altogether, which can spell disaster for a new marriage. Set a budget together, set some short-term financial goals and some long-term financial goals.
One of the main questions our firm is asked is whether or not a couple should file a married filing jointly” tax return or a married filing separately tax return. Keep in mind that once you file a joint tax return, you are both equally and solely responsible for the tax due on the return, even if it was generated by one spouse and not the other.
One of the other things to consider is that now that you are married, filing a joint tax return may push you into a higher tax bracket. It may also eliminate some of the adjustments and/or deductions for things like student loan interest, child tax credits, health care credits, rental losses, etc. If you are both high-earning, then you may now be subject to alternative minimum tax and your exemptions may be limited. Many think being married will save tax, but this is often not the case.
Use whatever tools necessary to give you both a clear view of the present financial situation and the future will be much easier to prepare for. Don’t be afraid to open up the discussion. It may be hard to broach, but you will be so much happier going into the commitment with a clear view of finances and what they mean to each of you.