We’ve reached the third installment of, “Outwitting Identity Thieves from the Start,” our new blog series outlining the effects of identity crimes (and other financial threats) on those just starting out. We’ve previously covered Identity Theft in College and Scams Targeting Job Seekers but now we move to one of the most celebrated (and financially trying) moments in life — marriage.
It Begins with a Budget
Engaged couples may feel like they’re getting a crash course in budgeting as they plan their dream wedding, but don’t let the wedding budget buzz deter you from some long-term financial planning.
To start, newlyweds should review individual monthly expenses and decide how those expenses might change after marriage. Slashing newly-shared expenses, such as rent and utilities, feels great. But glancing at each other’s more frivolous expenditures might send your better half into a panic. These non-essential expenses are where lifestyle expectations come into play.
Reflect on and discuss your expectations by asking yourselves what matters most. It could be starting a family or going back to school. You and your spouse are likely aware of these hopes and ambitions— but by discussing them you can effectively plan for the future and achieve your goals faster.
When planning, be sure to put the less glamorous aspects under a microscope. Assess the timeframe and return on investment (if applicable) and develop backup plans based on the lifestyle you expect to maintain along the way — could you give up dining out if it meant reaching your dreams faster?
(Need help budgeting? Check out our budgeting blog post.)
The Great Income Debate
There’s no right answer when it comes to equitably allocating income. However, this is a decision you and your spouse will have to make. This discussion helps ensure newlyweds have high visibility of expenses and a clear understanding of joint financial objectives.
If you and your fiancée earn similar amounts, 50/50 is likely your best method for sharing financial responsibilities. But if one spouse brings home more money or one chooses to stay home, you must both make sure there is a rhyme and rhythm to how your household’s income is allocated, regardless of who’s the primary breadwinner.
Changes to Your Personal Information
Marriage is brimming with love, romance and undoubtedly a boatload of paperwork. Besides the standard marriage license and changes to your tax filings, you will tack on extra changes if you plan to take a new last name. If so, here are various documents newlyweds will need to update.
The Name Change Checklist:
- Social Security card – report the change to the Social Security Administration by filing Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. This form can be found at SSA.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or by visiting your local SSA office.
- Driver’s License – bring your old license, certified marriage license and new Social Security card.
- Passport – the process and cost depend on the age of your current passport. Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website for more information.
- Employment information – discuss what records need to be altered with your HR department.
- Bank information – this includes financial accounts, loans and mortgages.
- Voter registration – submit a new voter registration application along with a “change of name” form. Find more information at headcount.org.
- Medical records – contact your healthcare providers directly.
- Insurance information – update family status and changes to your personal information. Insurers typically provide price breaks for married couples.
- Legal documents – coordinate changes with your attorney.
While this list may seem like a nightmare for newlyweds, it’s a jackpot for identity thieves. Keep this flurry of personally identifiable information (PII) to a minimum by securely storing and mailing documents (do not email unencrypted PII), avoiding phishing scams and disabling public Wi-Fi when checking off your list.
Cohabitating with Credit
This is where I find the most misinformation regarding marriage and money. Time and time again, engaged couples fret over irrational fears. What in particular?
Will my spouse’s credit score affect mine?
The short and sweet answer — no. Despite the financial responsibilities you will soon share, your credit score is yours alone. As it is tied to your Social Security number, it remains a unique identifier of strictly your history of financial responsibility. However, once you become married, any accounts you open in both of your names — such as credit, loans and mortgages — become joint obligations and impact both of your credit scores. If you default on any joint account payments, the delinquency is shared equally.
Now, just because you don’t share a credit score doesn’t mean debt accumulated when you are single won’t burden your marriage. How you choose to tackle this debt, similarly to how you allocate your income, will be up to you and your spouse. Discuss payment options and how much should be set aside to pay down debt.
Overall, the simple solution to the financial hurdles newlyweds may face is open communication and visibility surrounding money, debt and lifestyle expectations. I hope these tips will prove valuable as you start this new chapter of your life. Congratulations!
For more information on scams and identity theft, please visit FightingIdentityCrimes.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.