Managing the finances of two people is significantly more complicated than doing the same job for a singleton. Couples planning their financial lives often have more concerns, more accounts and more documents as part of their plans compared to two people who aren’t connected to one another. Key parts of the process include frankly sharing each other’s current financial situation and goals, deciding which if any accounts to share, preparing a family budget, evaluating insurance needs, writing or updating an estate plan and selecting beneficiaries. A financial advisor can give you expert advice about all these financial matters and more.
What to Consider When Financial Planning for Couples
When two people share a life together it’s advisable to extend that sharing to their financial advisor. Using the same advisor for both partners allows decisions to be considered in light of the couple’s entire financial picture. Here are other things you should consider when preparing a financial plan for a couple:
- Marital Agreements: One likely exception to this rule of thumb is when a prenuptial agreement is part of the couple’s financial plan. Then, each partner’s interests will usually be represented by their own team including financial and legal counsel.
- Current Finances: In addition to sharing an advisor, couples can best begin by sharing with each other their current financial status. That includes all the details, such as income, debt, savings and investments, goals, risk tolerance and preferred investing style.
- A Joint Budget: Living together under one roof can cost less than maintaining two households, but a spending plan is still a good idea. Preparing a budget with the help of a budget calculator, will supply both partners with a road map to ensure that the couple’s joint income is expended wisely.
- Bank Accounts: A joint checking account is often of a couple’s financial plan. Each partner can contribute to the account. Contributions are often scaled according to the different incomes generated by each partner. Funds in the account can then be used to pay regular household expenses.
- Investment Accounts: Maintaining separate individual brokerage and investment accounts may be preferable to having joint investment accounts, however. That is to accommodate the reality that often partners have different investment objectives and styles.
- Insurance: A couple’s insurance needs tend to be different from those of an individual. Life insurance, health insurance and disability insurance may need to be acquired or modified to serve to protect both partners’ assets and provide for their financial needs in the event of misfortune.
Retirement and Estate Planning for Couples
Retirement planning is another area that requires attention. Couples should discuss the ages at which they’d like to retire, the retirement lifestyle they envision and their thoughts and feelings about retirement topics such as downsizing and relocating. A retirement calculator can help them see how much they’ll have to save in order to fulfill their joint expectations for retirement.
In addition to planning for the day they’ll stop working, a couple’s financial plan will address the financial consequences when one of them dies. Important estate planning steps include preparing a will, setting up a trust, drafting an advance healthcare directive and having a durable financial power of attorney in place.
Even if an individual has previously prepared an estate plan, it will all have to be updated to reflect the new realities and responsibilities of life as a member of a couple. Among other things, steps will likely need to be taken to update beneficiaries of life insurance and retirement and other accounts to make sure that one’s partner as well as other dependents will have the necessary resources.
The Bottom Line
Preparing a financial plan for a couple involves considerations and steps not typically addressed in plans for single individuals. Couples often start by agreeing to work with a single financial advisor. Next, they’ll reveal their own financial status and goals. They’ll discuss how to jointly pay household expenses. A well-thought-out couple’s financial plan also addresses changed insurance requirements. An estate plan is drafted. Retirement also is addressed by, among other things, coordinating retirement dates and agreeing on a suitable lifestyle and post-retirement budget.
Tips for Financial Planning
- A financial advisor has all the information on these topics at their fingertips and can help you prepare a complete couple’s financial plan quickly and completely. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- A couple’s responsibilities to each other will expand significantly if their family grows with the addition of children. Education planning to cover the cost of college is a particularly important example of this. College financial planning tools such as 529 plans and Coverdell education accounts can provide important tax advantages. Planning ahead can also ensure that college-found offspring take full advantage of scholarships, grants financial aid and student loans.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/PeopleImages, ©iStock.com/AleksandarNakic, ©iStock.com/Drazen Zigic