Tying the knot means making a commitment to share every aspect of your life with your significant other. As you begin merging your money, one area that requires special attention is your retirement planning strategy. Building a nest egg as a team can be easier than doing it alone if you know which steps to take. Here are four retirement planning moves for newlyweds.
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1. Assess Your Starting Point
After getting married, it's a good idea to start planning for retirement by figuring out where you and your partner stand individually. This can help you gauge how much work you need to do to meet your long-term savings goals. For example, if you're both 30 years old and one of you has $100,000 in a 401(k) while the other has yet to start saving, your strategy may look different from the strategy of a couple whose retirement accounts have roughly the same balance.
In addition to what you do or don't have set aside for retirement, it's also important to look at the bigger financial picture to include any debts you each owe, including any unpaid student loans. Putting it all on the table will make it easier to decide how much you can save as a couple and who's responsible for paying what.
2. Evaluate Your Long-Term Goals
Once you've leveled the playing field so to speak, a good next step is to lay out your retirement saving goals and expectations. You may find that your interests are very similar, i.e. you both want to retire early and travel the world. On the other hand, you and your new spouse may have very different ideas about how to spend your golden years.
If you're in your 20s or 30s, planning ahead for the next 40 years can be difficult since there are so many things that can change. It may be easier to start setting goals for the next five or ten years. For instance, you may decide that you want to make debt payoff a priority and contribute just enough to your 401(k) to get the company match. If your partner would rather save first and pay down debt later, the two of you will have to figure out how to compromise.
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3. Decide Whether You Need a Joint Investment Account
One thing you and your spouse will need to do after getting married is update the beneficiary information on your 401(k), IRA or other retirement accounts. That'll ensure that each of you has access to those assets if something happens.
Beyond that, it's a good idea to think about whether you want to set up joint or individual investment accounts. A joint account can take some of the hassle out of pooling your assets, but it can backfire if you have very different risk tolerance levels. Individual accounts may be the safer bet if you're conservative in your approach but your spouse prefers more aggressive investing strategies.
4. Weigh How Marriage Affects Your Taxes
Getting married can be good news or bad news, depending on how much each of you makes and the kinds of tax-deductible expenses you have. As you're creating your retirement plan, don't forget to consider how taxes fit into the picture.
If one of you makes significantly more than the other, for instance, filing separate returns could result in a lower tax bill for the both of you. That can provide you with more money to save for retirement over time. Doing the math before deciding whether you should file joint or separate returns can steer you toward the option that offers the most tax benefits.
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It's easy to let planning for retirement get lost in the shuffle as you navigate the ropes of being newly married. While you may be able to put it off until the honeymoon's over, you can't afford to wait too long to begin preparing for the future. The sooner you start saving, the easier it'll be to achieve your dream of living happily ever after.