To help you broach the subject of finances and make sure they are in alignment, consider these tips from Marvin Feldman, president and CEO of the nonprofit Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE):
Have "the talk."
If you haven't done so yet, tell each other where your key financial information (checking, savings and investment accounts, mortgages, and insurance policies), as well as valuables (birth and marriage certificates, jewelry, safe deposit key) are located. It's important to understand each other's financial dreams and plans, as well as final wishes, so that you know exactly what to do in an unforeseen situation.
Boost your life insurance.
This is of paramount importance if you have dependents. According to the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association, today's average married couple has less than half the amount of life insurance coverage experts recommend. For husbands, it's barely enough to replace their income for 4.2 years, and for wives 4.9 years.
Evaluate disability insurance needs.
According to LIFE research, 70% of working adults say they could only afford to take off one month or less of unpaid vacation before everyday expenses would force them to return to work. Yet, nearly one out of every three workers over the age of 30 will suffer a disability lasting at least three months at some point in their career. To ensure that financial strain doesn't fall on your household and figure out how much disability insurance you need, visit www.lifehappens.org/disabilitycalculator.
Where there's a will, there's a way.
If you are married, now is as good a time as any other to put in place a will which names executors, guardians and trustees. This is especially relevant if you have small children, to ensure their well-being in the rare event that something happens to both you and your spouse. When choosing a guardian for your kids, don't hesitate to look outside the family; it is more important to find someone with values similar to yours rather than entrusting an aunt or an uncle that you're not comfortable with.
Meld your financial responsibilities.
While your chemistry may be great in the beginning of a relationship, make sure it lasts by determining upfront your spending and saving habits, whether you want a joint checking account, and whose responsibility it is to handle the bills.
Rest in peace.
This is always a tough topic, but discussing your final wishes and arrangements will ensure neither of you will be burdened with those decisions later on. Write down and tell your spouse, as well as other family members, where you want to be buried, funeral arrangements and even whether or not you wish to be an organ donor.
By Marshall Loeb