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  • Evaluating where you are financially and setting shared goals is important as a married couple. Once you define your goals as individuals and as a married couple, it will help you plan the means to reach your goals.

    A comfortable retirement should be a top priority. Since people are living longer than ever, retirement savings need to last longer and work harder. Develop a plan to ensure you are each contributing enough to your superannuation to ensure you can have the life you want after you finish work.

    If you or your spouse has considerable debt, one of your first goals should be to pay it off so you can focus on other financial aspirations. The first step is to get an accurate picture of how much you owe. Next, review your budget and construct a plan to pay off your debt as quickly as possible. The more you can pay per month, the less you will pay in interest overall.

    Together or Separate?
    Every couple has a different approach to how fully they would like to integrate their finances. Here are a few of the decisions you are likely to face as a married couple:

    Bank Accounts
    Every couple is different when it comes to maintaining joint or individual bank accounts. There are numerous options: you can maintain separate bank accounts and each pay a portion of your bills, deposit a set amount into a shared account each month and pay your bills using that account while maintaining separate accounts for your own expenses, or put all of your money into one account.

    If you decide to hold any of your accounts jointly, keep track of your transactions carefully and communicate them to your spouse. This is because tracking cash flow can be difficult with two individuals using one account.

    • Credit Cards
    You should each keep at least one credit card in your own name to maintain a credit history of your own. If you divorce or one of you dies, it will be much easier to get a mortgage, loan or credit card with some individual credit activity.

    Estate Planning
    It’s hard to think about, but no one lives forever. Putting the legalities in place will make it easier for your loved ones in the event of your death. Here are a few things to consider:

    A will is the first step in estate planning and should be at the top of your “to do” list. The provisions of your will determine who will inherit your property, who will become the guardian of your children, and who will wrap up your financial affairs in the event of your death.

    A trust allows you to have more control over the money you leave to someone than does your will. For example, if you leave money to a young child, it can be put into a trust and used only for education. Or the money could be disbursed to the child when he or she reaches a particular age. A trust also protects the money from creditors since it cannot be taken from the beneficiary to pay debts.

    Powers of Attorney
    If you are unable to make legal decisions because you are somehow incapacitated, someone will need to make these decisions for you. You need to decide who this person will be in advance. This is called giving someone power of attorney.

    Living Will
    A living will is a clear statement about your wishes regarding artificial life support. If your brain is dead and your body remains functioning only with the help of life support, a living will directs attendants in what choice to make for you.