Financial advice for couples

May 17, 2009 7:06:23 AM PDT
Joan Jensen, president and CEO of The Central Credit Union Of Illinois shares her list of quick and easy steps for getting started and staying on the road to financial happiness. Before Strolling Down The Aisle

Come Clean and Organized: Commit to thoroughly and honestly itemizing on paper a comprehensive listing of debts and assets. The list should include categories like checking and savings account balances, retirement savings, stocks and bond holdings, credit card balances, outstanding personal and auto loans and owed taxes. Couples should also exchange individual credit reports and scores. To request a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com OR call 877-322-8228. Couples experiencing financial difficulties should consider financial counseling prior to marriage.

Managing Daily Finances: Both spouses should have a clear picture of the family finances at all times. Couples should decide whether one person will take the lead in paying the bills timely or if they will sit down to pay them together. They should also decide what joint and individual banking accounts they will use to pay the bills and how each account will be funded. Signing up for free online banking will save time and money.

Discuss Financial Goals: Set up a preliminary, realistic budget to live within your means. Make plans to pay down debt and set aside money for an emergency fund. A daily contribution of $2.75 to this fund will put you over $1,000 within a year.

To Do's After The I Do's

Apply for a New Social Security Card: If you change your name, you will you need this for ID purposes next time you change jobs, but also to ensure your retirement account is properly credited with your earnings. While you're at it, apply for a new license as well. SSA.gov

Change Beneficiaries: Go through all investment accounts, savings accounts, 401(k) plans, IRAs, insurance policies (life, health, auto, homeowners) and others to review and change beneficiary designations.

Plan For The Future

Review Insurance and Health Coverage: Compare existing policies for under-coverage, duplicate coverage, or lapses in coverage. If you plan on dropping a homeowners or renters insurance policy, first make sure that the remaining policy has enough coverage to protect your combined household goods, especially items that are typically limited, such as jewelry, computer equipment and collectibles.

Think Retirement: With bills to pay and lots of other priorities demanding your money, saving for retirement seems like something that can be put off. It can't! If either spouse is eligible for a workplace retirement plan, contribute the full amount required to receive the maximum benefit. If you are ineligible for or have maxed out an employer-matched plan, consider after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA, Roth 401(k) or a traditional IRA account.

Home Buyers Incentives: Credit rating good? Down payment in place? Employment secure? Yes, it's been a buyers market for quite some time, but now, the timing might be better than ever considering the $8,000 incentive from Uncle for first-time buyers!


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