Financial Roadmap: Marriage

Life-Events-Roadmaps-Binoculars

Income

As you and your spouse combine households, you will want to review how your marriage impacts your finances. A great way to begin this process is to identify all sources of your respective incomes.

Start the process by looking at each of your pay stubs and noting gross pay and all deductions. In addition, be sure to look at your current W-4s. In this way, you can develop a comprehensive understanding of your household income.

  1. Take stock of your household’s income
    Use this worksheet to create a summary of your household’s income sources. Start with paychecks from employers and then move to income from other sources. Be sure to review current W-4s at each employer.
    Map - Life Events - Financial Wellness - University of Colorado
     Download Household Income Summary Document

Spending

Tracking expenditures and managing cash flow are important steps in creating a financial plan. Though it can be tedious, tracking expenditures sheds light on your spending behavior. It also provides the details that you and your spouse need to talk specifically about what you are doing (or can do) to achieve your financial goals.

  1. Gather your statements.
    Individually get copies of bank statements and credit card statements for 3 months. Also gather a recent pay stub if you are paying for health insurance directly out of your paycheck.
     
  2. Categorize your spending.
    Individually complete a Spending Chart for the last three months. Then record the average amount spent over that time frame.
    Map - Life Events - Financial Wellness - University of Colorado
     Download Two-Person Household Spending Chart
  3. Review household bills.
    As you combine your separate households into one, some of your recurring bills will no longer be necessary. For example, you will only have one electric bill when living together. Looking at your spending charts side-by-side, make a note of which bills will be eliminated, which will warrant discussion about potentially combining (e.g. both mobile phones on one "family" plan, bundling all vehicles' insurance and other insurance together at one firm), and which will remain.
    Map - Life Events - Financial Wellness - University of Colorado
     Download Household Bills Chart
  4. Review household spending.
    For each general spending category, add together your individual monthly spending to get the household’s estimate monthly spending. Later you can use this as the basis for making a budget for your new household.
    Map - Life Events - Financial Wellness - University of Colorado
     Download Household Spending as a Whole Document

Borrowing

Have you reviewed your credit history lately? Has your spouse reviewed his/hers? As you begin to get your "financial house" in order, it is important to take stock of your credit history. Your credit history highlights your past or current borrowing behavior, and it influences your ability to borrow in the future.

  1. Obtain a copy of your credit report and review it for accuracy.
    The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to a free credit report annually from each reporting agency. In order to request your free report(s), visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

    The three credit bureaus from which you can request reports are:

    • Equifax (1-800-525-6285)
    • Experian (1-888-397-3742)
    • TransUnion (1-800-680-7289)

    Here's what to look for as you review the report:

    Late payments on accounts
    Were you delinquent in making payments?

    Debt-to-credit limit ratios
    What is your debt compared to available credit on revolving accounts (e.g., credit cards)?

    Collection activity
    Has a delinquent payment gone to collections?

    Bankruptcies, liens, or judgments
    Notice if major financial challenges are listed on your credit report.

    Active accounts 
    Are there active accounts that you never closed? Or opened? Verify that accounts that you closed are, indeed, closed. If there are accounts open that you never opened, contact the credit reporting agency.

    Inquiries
    Review who has requested your credit file.
  2. Review all of your loan and credit card statements.
    From your current statements, make a list of your outstanding balances, monthly payment amounts, interest rates, and estimated payoff dates for each type of debt/liability that you have.
    Map - Life Events - Financial Wellness - University of Colorado
     Download Creditor Inventory

Saving

John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." And sometimes the unexpected happens while you’re busy living life. Setting aside some of your income is a great way to prepare for the unexpected and reward yourself for your hard work. Saving money also allows you to achieve your financial goals. As you and your spouse take steps to boost your financial health, it is important to review the role of savings in your plans.

  1. Gather your statements.
    Individually obtain copies of bank statements from your savings accounts.
     
  2. Review individual saving behavior.
    Do you have an established behavior of setting money aside in a savings account? Do you only save money on occasion? Is saving an integral part of your monthly budget?
     
  3. Review household saving behavior.
    Review household saving behavior. Are you and your spouse actively seeking ways to grow your savings? Does one of you tend to save more than the other?  How much money are you currently saving on a monthly basis? Are you saving money through direct deposit of your paycheck?

Investing

  1. Gather Your Statements and Account Information.
    Obtain copies of statements from your investment accounts. If your employment history includes working for several employers, each of which provided you a pension, (401)k, (401)a or (403)b plan, it is important for you to find out "where your money is" by gathering account information for each plan.
     
  2. Gather information regarding your current contributions to and/or account balance in your retirement plans.
    If you are a CU benefits-eligible employee, you can log in to the employee portal and review the "Benefits Summary" and "Retirement Contributions" sections to see your contributions to the 401(a) Plan or PERA.
  3. Review current contributions to your retirement plan, voluntary retirement savings plan, and other investment tools such as a Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
    Are you and your partner actively seeking ways to invest monies and prepare for retirement? Is there additional disposable income in your budget that can be allocated for investing?

Insuring

  1. Gather documents and account details for all financial accounts.
    Gather and compile information on all financial accounts. Ensure that you can access accounts that you have created online.
     
  2. Gather information regarding coverage and costs of health insurance plans offered by your employer. Encourage your spouse to do the same.
    If you are a CU benefits-eligible employees, visit the Employee Services' benefits website for more information on the health insurance plans offered by University of Colorado. Be sure to review costs for individual coverage and coverage for individual + spouse.
     
  3. Gather names of individuals currently listed as beneficiaries on all financial accounts and life insurance policies.
    Review each financial account and life insurance policy to ensure that you have designated a beneficiary for each. A beneficiary receives certain plan benefits after the owner (you or your spouse) of such policy dies. By designating an individual(s) as the beneficiary of your retirement plan(s) and life insurance policy (if applicable), you are ensuring that the benefits of these plans are distributed to the person(s) of your choice.
     
  4. Gather the policy information for renter's/homeowner's, car and life insurance.
    Gather and compile information on insurance policies. Review current coverage and consider the need to increase coverage and/or add one other to each policy.

Life-Events-Roadmaps-Compass

Income

  1. Share your taking stock results.
    As you review your pay stubs and W-4s, share the results with your spouse. Discuss sources of income and whether they vary (e.g. bonuses, paid overtime) or are constant (salaried wage). Discuss the amount and regularity of other sources of income such as child support, pension benefits, social security benefits, rental income, and business income.
     
  2. Discuss any changes to income.
    As you take stock of your household income, be sure to discuss any changes to jobs or income (e.g., Will one of you earn a raise? Will one of you be a stay-at-home caretaker for kids or aging parents? Is there a chance that one of you could be laid-off from your job?) that you foresee in the near future.
     
  3. Consider changes to the taxes withheld from your paychecks.
    Though it is not the most exciting way to spend your time together, it is a good idea for you and your spouse to spend some time reviewing a W-4 to determine how each of you will complete the form. Giving up a little time to sort this out now will likely enhance your financial situation at tax time.

    If you and your spouse work, be sure to review the "Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet" on page 2 of the W-4. This worksheet will help you to ensure that sufficient tax is withheld. Though it would be nice to have additional money on each paycheck, ensuring that sufficient tax is withheld minimizes the chance of having a large tax liability upon filing your income taxes.

    The most important topic to consider is your strategy for withholdings. Specifically, you and your spouse will want to discuss whether you want to try to estimate your tax liability as close as possible and pay that amount during the year or whether you would like to err on the side of overpayment (to get a refund) or underpayment (to keep more money from each paycheck but possibly have to write a check in April). As you consider the number of withholding allowances that you will claim, be sure to consider the “married but withhold at the higher single rate” option. Generally, there is a lower withholding rate for people who qualify as "married." Thus, the "married but withhold at the higher single rate" minimizes the chance that insufficient tax is withheld. Please note: This information is for general reference purposes only.  Only a qualified tax professional can give you tax advice on your situation. ​​
  4. Start thinking about your tax-filing status.
    First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes filing income taxes? Though that's not the way the jingle goes, filing taxes is a part of married life. If you and your spouse are wondering how your relationship impacts your filing status, here are a few facts about filing statuses to consider:
     
    • According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), your marital status on the last day of that year determines your marital status for the entire year.
      What does this mean? It means that if you were not married on the last day of the tax year for which you are filing, you and your spouse cannot claim the "Married Filing Separately" or "Married Filing Jointly" status.
       
    • A married couple may elect to file their returns separately.
      Each person's filing status would be "Married Filing Separately."
       
    • A married couple may file a joint return together.
      The couple's filing status would be "Married Filing Jointly."

    Important considerations:

    Your filing status determines the standard deduction amount and schedule of tax rates that are used when calculating your federal income taxes. Generally, there is a higher tax rate on "Married Filing Separately" than on "Married Filing Jointly." Please note: This information is for general reference purposes only.  Only a qualified tax professional can give you tax advice on your situation. ​

    Married Filed Separately

    • Cannot claim tuition and fees deduction, student loan interest, education credits, or earned income credits. If you claim standard deduction, the standard deduction amount is approximately half of what it would be on a joint return.

      Both parties must choose to take either the standard deduction or itemized deductions. Why does this matter? If one of you has sufficient business, medical or other qualified expenses to claim as itemized deductions, the other person must also file an itemized "claim." If the second person does not have significant number of itemized deductions, s/he could lose tax savings that would come from standardized deduction.

      Conversely, if, in this case, you choose the standardized deduction, both parties must file accordingly and the person with a significant number of deductions runs the risk of losing money/tax savings. Thus, if you and your spouse have significantly unequal adjusted gross incomes and need to itemize high number of deductions, it may make sense to file separately. Please research your scenario and corresponding tax implications and/or talk with a tax professional to determine best course of action for you and your spouse.
       
    • Affords you legal and tax protection from potential problems resulting from your spouse’s behavior. By filing separately, you are only responsible for the accuracy of and tax liability for your return. If you file jointly and your spouse is dishonest on the return, you and your spouse are held accountable for such inaccuracy. Further, if you and your spouse owe taxes and your spouse does not pay them, you are liable for payment due.

      If you lived with your spouse at any time during the year, you must include a larger amount (up to 85 percent) of any Social Security benefits that you received in your taxable income.

      If you lived with your spouse at any time during the year and you are (or your spouse is) covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you may not be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to a traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) if income exceeds a certain amount. Generally, the allowable amount for income is lower for a joint return.
       

    Married Filed Jointly

    • Both spouses report income, deductions, and credits on one return. Depending on incomes and deductions, tax rate may be lower and the standard deduction higher than afforded with "Married Filed Separately."

      If your spouse owes money (taxes, student loan payments) to the government, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may garnish the tax refund to pay for the debt. If this is the case and you file jointly, it is most likely that you will not receive any refund money. The money will be garnished to pay for your spouse’s debt.

      By filing jointly, you and your spouse accept full responsibility for the accuracy and tax liability of the return. What does this mean? If your spouse doesn't pay taxes owed, you will be held responsible for doing so. In addition, if the IRS requests supporting documents (e.g., receipts), you will need to supply such documents (even if they are tied to your spouse's portion of the tax return).
    • Previously filed returns: You and your spouse may amend previously filed separate returns to a single joint return up to three (3) years after the original tax deadline. It is important to note that this time frame does not include extensions. (Source)

      Upon review of the requirements, benefits and drawbacks of income tax filing statuses, select the filing status that best fits your situation. Please note: This information is for general reference purposes only.  Only a qualified tax professional can give you tax advice on your situation. ​

Spending

  1. Discuss current spending.
    Discuss current spending. Determine if you have individual or household spending habits. Look for ways to trim expenses and save money. Consider if there are bills that can be combined or eliminated.
     
  2. Take the Life Values quiz.
    Grow awareness of your financial values and habits by taking the Life Values quiz. Upon completing the quiz, check out descriptions of each life value.

    Why take the quiz? Growing awareness of your own value system and behavior is the first step in building understanding with your spouse. Over the course of your childhood, you learned values and developed habits in regard to money. You may have learned these explicitly from family members or a class in school or implicitly by listening to conversations or watching the behaviors of family members and friends. No matter how, where, or what you learned, by this stage in life, you have developed your own set of financial values and habits. And so has your spouse.  Thus, in order to better understand one another and find successful ways to navigate financial decisions as a couple, it is important that you and your spouse explore your respective financial values and habits. After taking the quiz, encourage your spouse to do the same.
     
  3. Consider how spending will happen going forward.
    As you and your spouse discuss your spending plans and financial goals, you will likely consider where you will store your money. As you research options for checking and savings accounts, you may wonder if an individual or joint account is the best option. Consider benefits and drawbacks of joint accounts. Discuss if future spending will be from an individual or joint bank account.

    Benefits of a Joint Account

    • Affords the opportunity to track spending and manage your household's cashflow
    • There are no surprises. You can both see how each other is contributing (or not) to the advancement or your goals.
    • Allows each person access to the household’s money
    • Affords each person the opportunity to deposit or withdrawal funds
    • In the event that a spouse passes, the other will retain access to the funds without the need to engage the legal system or a will

    Drawbacks of a Joint Account

    • There may be surprises. You can both see how each other is contributing (or not) to the advancement or your goals. If one spouse does not inform the other of his/her spending behavior and it later appears in the account activity, such lack of communication may cause friction in the relationship.
    • In addition, if one spouse has withdrawn funds without communicating it to the other, the other may run the risk of overdrafts or bounced checks. Separate accounts provide a buffer against potential damage that a less financially responsible spouse can cause the other.
    • Allows each person access to the household’s money
    • Resentment or relationship problems may arise when joint funds are used to pay for credit cards, student loans, alimony, child support or other debt with which one spouse entered the marriage.
    • Can be difficult to separate finances if the relationship ends
    • Each spouse has a right to withdraw funds and/or close the account without the consent of the other. This scenario creates the potential for one spouse to "drain" the bank account and leave the other with no money.
    • Can be challenging for one or both spouses to lose autonomy with finances
      Of course, it is important not to equate autonomy with secrecy. If you and your spouse have outlined your collective financial goals, it is important to maintain transparency and honesty while simultaneously enjoying your autonomy
    • Can make it difficult to establish a sense of fairness in paying for expenses
      A spouse earning a significantly higher income than the other may feel resentment or a sense of burden with managing all expenses from a shared account. Separate accounts allow couples to manage shared expenses with percentages of income that allow for equality.

    Options

    After weighing the benefits and drawbacks of a joint bank account, you and your spouse may decide to: 1) join your finances in a joint bank account, 2) maintain individual accounts, or 3) maintain separate accounts for certain purposes and open a shared account for a specific goal (e.g., saving for a down payment for a home, saving for a child’s tuition, saving for vacation)
  4. Discuss who will be responsible for bills.
    Consider whether one of you will be responsible for paying households bills or if each of you will manage certain bills.
     
  5. Discuss budgeting and spending Goals.
    Reflect on current spending and brainstorm financial goals for near and long-term. Discuss ways to modify current spending behavior in order to achieve financial goals. Consider ways to lower expenses associated with certain bills (e.g., electricity, cable television, water usage).

Borrowing

As you and your spouse explore the matter of joining finances, you will want to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of borrowing together. Before opening a joint credit card, be sure to discuss the implications of doing so. In this way, you can develop a mutual understanding of the use of the card and the expectations that you have of one another for using it.

Even if you decide not to open a joint credit card account, there may come a time when you and your spouse wish to borrow money for big purchases such as a vehicle, property, home improvement, or higher education. In this case, too, it is important to consider borrowing options and their impact on your budget and credit history.

  1. Consider important facts about individual and joint credit.

    Things to know about joint and individual credit:

    • Individual credit is only based on the individual applicant’s credit history, income, and assets. This person alone is responsible for paying the bill.
    • Joint credit is based on the credit history, income, and assets of both individuals who apply for credit.
    • With joint credit, both individuals can make charges on the card and the credit card history is included on both parties’ credit report.
    • With joint credit, both individuals are liable for the credit card payments. If the payments are delinquent, the credit card issuer can hold either cardholder responsible for payment.
    • With joint credit, both individuals are liable for 100% (not 50%) of the bill.
    • With joint credit, both individuals will be responsible for the debt in the event of divorce.
    • You may authorize a user on an individual or joint account. An authorized user is someone who may use the account with your permission. However, you (and the joint account holder, if applicable) are solely responsible for the debt.
    • Joint credit history does not exist. You and your spouse do (and will) not have joint credit scores. Even if you are legally married, you still have separate credit histories. However, any debt(s) that you have acquired or applied for jointly will be included in your individual history. The entire debt (not 50% of it) is included in your history.
  2. Discuss whether to add each other to existing credit cards and/or to close any existing lines of credit.

    Advantages of a Joint Credit Card

    • Affords you and your spouse the opportunity to manage shared expenses together.
    • Allows a person with bad credit to enhance their credit score. If one person in the relationship has good credit and adds a partner with less-than-stellar credit, sound management of the card will enhance the person with less-than-stellar credit to enhance his/her score. This success rests on timely payment of the card and keeping the balance low.
    • Similarly, a joint credit card may afford one individual the opportunity to get a good interest rate or credit card when he/she otherwise would not.

    Disadvantages of a Joint Credit Card

    • Credit card disagreements could lead to problems in the relationship. You may wish to talk with your spouse about how you will collectively address concerns regarding purchases and/or the other person’s spending or payment behavior should they arise. If you can’t agree on how you will approach such matters, you may wish to postpone the decision to open a joint credit card until a time when you feel your relationship ready and able to handle it.
    • Both individuals are legally responsible for making payments on the card. Even if you did not make the charges on the card, you are held responsible for making payments. If you (or the joint account holder) do not make payments, you can have your wages garnished or be sued for payment.
    • Breakups and divorce can cause challenges in managing the credit card. If your ex-partner does not pay his/her share of the bill, you will need to make the payment or your credit will be affected. If the break-up was not amicable, one party may decide to make charges on the account and place the responsibility for paying them on the other individual. Divorce courts may sign off on agreements regarding individuals’ responsibilities for debt x, y, or z, but, ultimately, the agreement is between the card/debt issuer and card/account holder. If you marriage were to end, consider paying off joint debts and closing accounts before the final divorce decree.
  3. Consider future borrowing needs (e.g., vehicle, house) and how you might approach them.

    In addition to reviewing your budget and researching potential lenders, be sure to take some time to talk with your spouse about how you (as a couple) will approach the loan application and resultant debt. Specifically, you will want to determine if:
    • one of you will borrow individually,
    • one of you will co-sign on a loan held in the other’s (the borrower) name,
    • both of you will be primary borrowers ("co-borrowers") of the debt
  4. Discuss implications of borrowing together. Consider co-signing and co-borrowing.
    If you and your spouse decide to borrow together, you have two borrowing options available to you. One of you can co-sign on a loan in the other's name or you can borrow together. It is important to note that if you are a co-signer or co-borrower, you are liable for payment of the debt.

    What is a co-signer?

    In essence, the co-signer serves as a "back-up" for the borrower. A co-signer assumes responsibility for the debt should the borrower default. If the primary borrower dies, loses a job, or misses payments, the responsibility falls on the co-signer. Given the liability for the loan, the co-signer must be able to qualify for the loan on his/her own merit. A lender will review the co-signer’s credit history, assets, and income along with the borrower's. A co-signer often has a strong, established credit history.

    The co-signer "lends" his/her credit history to the borrower so that the borrower may have increased eligibility for credit. Co-signing on a loan offers the borrower the opportunity to leverage the combined income of the borrower and co-signer to, in turn, qualify for a larger debt load (and likely a lower interest rate) than could be obtained individually.

    Though the co-signer assumes liability of the loan, s/he does not assume ownership of the item being purchased. As the loan account is in the borrower’s name, the borrower, not the co-signer, has ownership of the purchase (e.g., vehicle).

    If you are considering co-signing on a loan, please note that co-signed debt is included in your total debt obligation. It is Important to remember this if you need or plan to apply for credit in your own name. For even if the co-signed debt is in good standing, the debt-to-income ratio that results from it may limit your access to credit. Further, though you do not have rights to ownership, you do carry the associated debt and payment activity in your credit history.

    What is a co-borrower?

    A co-borrower is any additional borrower whose name appears on loan documents. All persons listed on loan documents are obligated to repay the loan. The co-borrower assumes liability for the loan and ownership of the purchase. (The names of co-borrowers for mortgages/vehicles appear on the title.)

    The credit history and income of both borrowers are used to qualify for the loan. Unlike a co-signer, a co-borrower does not need to qualify for loan on his/her own. Combining income and assets on a loan application often allows co-borrowers to meet the lending criteria of creditors.

    Important Consideration

    If you require co-signer to be eligible for a loan, consider taking small steps to enhance your credit score. Such steps might include securing a credit card or small dollar loan and making timely payments and/or paying it off ahead of schedule. By staying current on payment obligations and showing sound management of credit, you will gradually increase your credit score and further enhance your access to credit.
  5. Brainstorm goals for managing debt.
  6. Discuss goals for managing and paying off debt. Consider ways to increase amount of payments made on monthly obligations.

Saving

  1. Consider opening an individual savings account.
    If you do not have a savings account, consider opening an individual account.
     
  2. Consider opening a joint savings account.
    If you and your spouse do not have a joint savings account, consider opening a joint account. Discuss how much money each of you will contribute to the account and how frequently money will be deposited into the account. Be sure to establish guidelines for use of the account. Setting clear, mutually agreed upon expectations for the account and withdrawal of funds minimizes the chance of tension or misunderstanding.
     
  3. Consider including your savings account(s) in direct deposit of your paycheck.
    Review your monthly budget to determine how much money each of you will deposit into savings accounts each month. Consider adding the savings account(s) to the direct deposit of your paycheck. In this way, saving becomes an automatic part of your regular financial behavior.
     
  4. Discuss saving for an emergency.
    Developing an emergency savings fund is an important component of building a solid financial foundation. Having money set aside for emergencies will allow you and your spouse to navigate unexpected situations such as vehicle repairs, pet health care, or a broken water heater with greater peace of mind and minimal impact on other areas (e.g. credit cards, retirement accounts) of your financial foundation.

    It is important that you and your spouse discuss how much money you will set aside for emergency savings. This decision is unique to every couple. However, in the event of a lost job or layoff, it is a good idea to save sufficient money to live without that income for 3-6 months.

    For guidance in determining how much money you and your spouse will need to set aside for an emergency fund, review the Emergency Fund Worksheet from smartaboutmoney.org.
  5. Consider opening a savings account dedicated solely to emergency savings.

Investing

  1. Consider scheduling a 1:1 meeting with a financial professional to discuss your financial and investment questions.
    Consider meeting with a financial professional to review your financial goals, budget, current investment allocations, and plan for retirement. CU employees can take advantage of one-on-one consultations with financial professionals on each of its campuses. View the Personal Financial Consultations section of the website for more information.  
  2. Consider consolidating your investment monies from retirement plans from past employers.
    Consider the option of “rolling over” the monies into one account. 
  3. Consider additional retirement savings plan options.
    Review your budget and financial goals to determine the feasibility of saving more for retirement. The University of Colorado has three voluntary savings plans available to most employees. The voluntary savings plans are defined contribution plans of an individual account, which you create to set aside money on a pre-tax basis through a salary reduction agreement with the university. Your benefits are based on the contributions credited to these accounts, plus or minus investment gains or losses. Visit the Voluntary Retirement Savings Plan webpage for more information.

Insuring

  1. Discuss where and how you will safeguard sensitive financial documents and account information.
    Staying organized and maintaining the security of sensitive financial information minimizes the threat of identity theft. Further, storing important documents in a secure, single location ensures that all important information will be intact and accessible should an emergency arise.
     
  2. Consider the costs of and coverage offered by each health insurance plan available to you and your spouse. Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of adding one spouse to the other’s health insurance plan.
    Review the health insurance plans offered by your employer and that of your spouse. Be sure to compare coverage offered by each plan and the costs (Individual and Individual + Spouse) associated with each. Determine if you and your spouse will maintain individual plans through your respective employers or add one spouse to the other’s plan. (Note:  You can typically only add a spouse to a health insurance policy within a certain number of days after getting married.  Otherwise you will have to add them during the Open Enrollment period. If your spouse has coverage through their employer and then loses that coverage upon separation of employment, they may be eligible to be added to your policy. Check with your employer for eligibility.)
  3. Consider the individuals currently listed as beneficiaries on all financial accounts and life insurance policies.
    Consider whether the names of beneficiaries on accounts and policies need to be changed or updated. Please note that some retirement plans require that the spouse be named the beneficiary unless he/she signs a written waiver consenting to the choice of another beneficiary. As you decide beneficiaries, please note that that in some cases there are tax implications for the beneficiary. Check with your financial provider or plan administrator for details. 
  4. Discuss current coverage for renter’s/homeowner’s, car, and life insurance.
    Consider the current coverage for each insurance policy. Now that you have combined household items, you may want to increase the amount covered by your renter’s or homeowner’s policy. If each of you has a vehicle and drives the other’s car on occasion, you should consider adding one another as drivers covered by your respective auto insurance policies. In addition, your review of insurance coverage is an ideal time to discuss whether life insurance is appropriate for you and your spouse. 

Life-Events-Roadmaps-Hiker

Income

  1. Determine changes to your W-4s.
    Pull out the copies of your current W-4s that you obtained from your employers (you did this in the Taking Stock section). Then print blank W-4s to work through together at home.

    Follow the instructions for each person to complete a "practice" W-4.

    You can claim one allowance for yourself and one for your spouse. Depending on the amount of your joint income, you may be able to claim additional allowances. If you have children, you can add one allowance for each dependent. If your income is less than a certain threshold and you are eligible for a Child Tax Credit, you may take additional allowances for dependents.

    If you plan to itemize or claim adjustments to your income, be sure to follow the guidance on the "Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet" on page 2 of the W-4.

    For additional support in determining the number of withholding allowances, check out the Withholding Calculator offered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Please noteThis information is for general reference purposes only.  Only a qualified tax professional can give you tax advice on your situation. ​
  2. Contact your employer directly for instructions on how to update your W-4 form.
  3. CU employees can update or change elections through the employee portal

Spending

As you and your spouse develop a financial plan, remember that, no matter which way you look at it, you WILL spend money. It is not realistic to develop a financial plan that does not account for this truth. For developing and executing a successful financial plan is an important, ongoing exercise that does not address IF you will spend, but rather ON WHAT and WHEN you and your spouse spend money.

  1. Discuss current spending.
    Discuss current spending. Determine if you have individual or household spending habits. Look for ways to trim expenses and save money. Consider if there are bills that can be combined or eliminated.
  2. Write spending goals.
    It is important to write down your financial goals. Get a pen and some paper and be sure to make your goals SMART!

    What are SMART goals?

    They are:
    • Specific: I will pay off my credit card in two months by paying X dollars this month and Y dollars next month.
    • Measurable: I will pay an additional $50/payment on my student loan bill for the next 6 months.
    • Attainable/Achievable: I will save $10/week. (I will forego two coffees/week at Starbucks and instead place $10 in my savings jar.)
    • Realistic: I will work on paying off my auto loan ahead of schedule by including an additional $50 on my monthly payment.
    • Time-Bound and Trackable: We will save $2,000 for a vacation by saving $200/month for the next 10 months.
    As you develop your SMART goals, remember to think of them of them in regard to the time frame in which you plan to achieve them.

    Short-Term Goals: Achievable in fewer than 3 months

    Medium-Term Goals: Achievable from 3 months to 3 years

    Long-Term Goals: Require 3 or more years to achieve

    If you need a little boost with outlining your goals, be sure to check out the Ten Basic Steps Worksheet from smartaboutmoney.org.
  3. Make a new budget.
    Implementing a budget is an integral part of managing spending decisions and behavior. Determine how much of your income will be allocated to household expenses, saving, investing for retirement, and entertainment. In order to advance your spending goals, be sure to find and “plug” the leaks in your spending pipeline. Use the Plug Spending Leaks Worksheet to guide your review of potential "leaks" in your spending.

    Monitoring where your money goes is an excellent way to determine how you are spending your money and whether or not these expenditures support your financial goals. Use the Spending Diary and the Tracking Your Expenses worksheets to guide you as you track your spending.
  4. Eliminate or combine bills.
    Combine or eliminate bills wherever possible. Determine which expenses can be eliminated as a result of moving from individual households to one. Enroll in "family plans" for expenses such as cell phones or gym memberships.

Borrowing

  1. Contact creditors to update account with both parties’ information (if applicable).
     
  2. Pay off credit accounts and close them (if applicable).
     
  3. Write down SMART goals to manage existing debt. 

Saving

  1. Open an individual savings account (if applicable).
    Select the financial institution with which you would like to bank. Go to the financial institution with personal identification and a check or cash to make the initial deposit.
     
  2. Open a joint savings account (if applicable).
    Select the financial institution at which you and your spouse would like to open an account. Go to the financial institution with personal identification and a check or cash to make the initial deposit.
     
  3. Add your savings account(s) to the list of accounts for direct deposit of your paycheck.
    Determine how much of your paycheck will be allocated to your savings account(s). CU employees can update direct deposit information by visiting the “Payroll and Compensation” section in the employee portal.
     
  4. Establish an emergency savings fund.
    Allocate a certain amount of your income to emergency savings. The key to growing your emergency savings funds is to start saving now. If the targeted savings amount seems daunting, focus on starting small. It is important to remember that the emphasis in not on saving large sums of money on a regular basis, but rather that you and your spouse develop the habit of setting aside a manageable percentage of your income on a regular basis.
     
  5. Open a savings account dedicated solely to emergency savings (if applicable). 

Investing

  1. Schedule a 1:1 meeting with a financial professional to discuss your financial and investment questions.
    To learn more about the service available to CU employees, please visit the Personal Financial Consultations page. 
     
  2. Contact the investment plan vendor with which you will roll over funds into on account (if applicable).
    If you decide to roll over funds held in plans from previous employers, collect account information for each plan and contact with vendor with which you will be working.
  3. Enroll in an additional voluntary retirement savings plan or increase your contributions (if applicable). 
    CU employees can visit the Employee Services' Voluntary Retirement Savings Plans Web Page for more information. 

Insuring

  1. Store sensitive financial documents and account information in a safe place.
    Store documents in a fire-resistant, locked security box at home. You can also consider storing items such as valuable jewelry, property deeds, marriage certificates, birth certificates, foreign currency, stock or bond certificates, collectibles, and family heirlooms in a bank safe-deposit box. It is important to note that cash kept in a safe-deposit box is not insured under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Thus, if you use a safe-deposit box, be sure to limit its use to storage of valuable possessions and documents. In addition, please note that a power of authority loses authority to act upon your behalf upon your death. Should you die, the only individuals who can access the safe-deposit box are those listed on the signature card for the box rental at the bank. Be sure to keep this in mind should you decide to use a safe-deposit box. In addition, given the limited access to a safe-deposit box, you and your spouse may wish to store your wills at home.
     
  2. Protect Your Identity.
    Be on the lookout for financial scams and protect your identity by regularly reviewing your credit report.  Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to request a free report. If you find unauthorized charges on your credit report, contact each credit reporting agency. 

    The three credit bureaus are:

    • Equifax (1-800-525-6285)
    • Experian (1-888-397-3742)
    • TransUnion (1-800-680-7289)

    Inform each agency that you believe that you are a victim of identity theft and ask the agency to put a fraud alert on your file. In addition, request that the credit reporting companies not include the disputed information on your credit report. In addition, create an identity theft affidavit at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)'s website.

    The fraud alert stays active on your credit report for 90 days. If necessary, you can renew the alert after 90 days. In addition to placing the filing the fraud alert, be sure to maintain copies of communication (letters or emails) sent or received regarding the matter. Record dates that you make telephone calls and keep clear, updated records regarding actions taken to resolve the matter.

    Upon completion of the FTC identity theft affidavit, file a police report. In turn, you may use these documents to restore your credit by stopping a business from collecting debts that resulted from identity theft and requesting the removal of fraudulent information from your credit report.
     
  3. Implement your decision regarding health insurance coverage.
    If you decide to add your spouse to your current CU health plan, be sure to visit http://www.cu.edu/employee-services/benefits for the relevant policies and procedures and to verify that the eligibility requirements have been met. 
     
  4. Update beneficiaries as applicable.

    For the 401(a) Plan

    Contact TIAA directly. You can access the TIAA website at www.tiaa.org/cu to manage your account, or you can call a representative at 1-800-842-2252.

    For the 403(b) Plan

    Contact TIAA directly. You can access the TIAA website at www.tiaa.org/cu to manage your account, or you can call a representative at 1-800-842-2252.

    For the 401k and 457 plans sponsored by the Public Employees' Retirement Association (PERA):

    Contact PERA.
  5. Update current coverage for renter's/homeowner's, car and life insurance.
    Contact insurance carriers to update coverage. 

Disclaimer: No communication is intended to be, or shall be construed as, the rendering of any legal or professional advice whatsoever. Any such advice or direction is disclaimed. Further, any information contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for purposes of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or tax-related matter addressed herein.