Genius Money Tips All Married Couples Need To Know

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Getting married can be an exciting, albeit expensive, life change that comes with new financial opportunities. While generally less exciting than your physical or emotional changes, your financial changes can be just as important (beginning with how much you spend on the wedding). From filing your taxes jointly to shopping for new joint bank accounts, there can be a lot of financial decisions to make as a new couple. These new financial conversations might feel overwhelming at first, but they can be vital to creating healthy long-term financial decisions. Plus, there are some awesome financial options available to married couples and taking advantage of those can help you both reach your financial goals.

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Regina McCann Hess, CFP, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and author of "Super Woman Wealth: How To Become Your Own Financial Hero," spoke with Money Digest about the best money tips for married couples. For starters, having the combined income of a married couple can help with any preexisting debt and/or credit score issues that one-half of the couple might have. Since both spouses' credit histories and scores are required for large joint purchases, like a house, as well as when qualifying for new credit and loans (for something like a car), ensuring both members of the marriage have healthy financials ultimately serves a couple's long-term financial goals.

In addition to having more consistency in bill payment, Hess explained that selectively targeting certain debts can improve a couple's individual credit scores, which in turn makes them more likely to qualify for any credit they might choose to pursue. "If one spouse has poor credit, the couple could focus on building up that partner's credit score. They can start by looking at what impacts a credit score and choosing a few items that would have the best impact on the score," Hess said.

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The financial benefits of marriage

Getting married can provide a host of new financial benefits for couples as they merge both their finances and lives together. Perhaps some of the most significant money benefits come in the form of the increased contribution limits that are available once you're married. Said Regina McCann Hess, "One opportunity that married couples have is that they can double their gift tax exclusion. A single person can gift up to $18,000 per year per person. As a married couple, they can elect splitting gifts and increase the amount to $36,000 per year per person. In essence, a married couple can gift someone $36,000 while a single person can only gift $18,000." This can have important tax and overall financial benefits, depending on the gift amount, not to mention make it easier to help family and/or friends.

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According to Hess, married couples also have a better way to save long-term with regard to their health plans. Specifically, married couples who select health insurance plans that include a Health Savings Account can use increased contribution limits to save long-term. "As a married couple or family, you can currently contribute $8,300 to an HSA ($4,150 for an individual). Taxpayers who are older than 55, may contribute an additional $1,000 to their HSA," said Hess, while adding, "You can contribute to an HSA until you enroll in Medicare, and they can be a strategic part of your financial plan." With that in mind, HSAs are typically associated with high-deductible insurance plans, so make sure you research plans before you end up spending more than you planned to on insurance.

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Money risks to keep in mind as well

While there can be many financial benefits to being married, there are also a few risks to be aware of, too. A big factor to consider is that just like joining together your financials can help your individual credit scores, it can also hurt them. As Regina McCann Hess told us, "Married couples tend to add new, often joint, debt at some point in the marriage. New joint debt and adding spouses to credit card accounts can impact both of their credit scores." Since most credit applications require a hard credit check, which can ultimately drop your score, married couples could face hits to their credit score depending on how much credit they pursue.

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Another money risk for married couples is the unequal distribution of labor that affects many couples. This can be especially relevant when it comes to finances. Hess explained that "during marriage, one partner tends to handle the finances while the other may take on other roles in the relationship. At some point, the non-financial spouse may feel that they have lost track of their own and the household finances since they are not actively involved." This inequality can lead to added strain on a relationship, especially if each member of the relationship has a different view on equity. One study published in the Sex Roles research journal even found that when both members of a couple agreed that household labor should be divided equally, they were actually happier than couples with conflicting beliefs.

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