Tradition has established June as the month for weddings. Of course there are a lot of people who get married at other times of the year. But this seems like an appropriate time to talk about some special problems for newlyweds that are not generally thought of as part of the hearts-and-flowers routine.
Financial difficulties lie at the core of many troubled marriages; and even when the basic problem is elsewhere, money may be used as a tool in an ongoing dispute.
Yet our young people get little if any training in the financial aspects of marriage. In this day of free and open discussion of sexual mores, most people embarking on marriage today are economic illiterates.
If you're contemplating marriage, then in addition to domestic arrangements, family size and timing, etc., you ought to be making decisions on how you're going to handle your money.
If you will both be working after marriage -- the normal situation these days -- will you pool your incomes? Or will you keep them separate, with each of you responsible for specified categories of expenses? Or try to live on one income and save the other, perhaps for a home purchase later?
Do you want joint or separate checking accounts? Savings accounts? There are pros and cons to each method -- too involved for this limited space. But you should discuss the question and reach at least an initial decision in advance of your wedding date.
Marriage will affect your income tax liability. From last year's tax instructions, extimate what your joint 1980 tax bill will be. Then adjust withholding by filing new form W-4s with your employers. Otherwise, surprise! You might find yourselves with a large tax deficency next spring.
Review your life insurance and make necessary advance proparations to change the beneficiary designations. Take a look at your health insurance too -- particularly company programs -- to be sure you'll have adequate coverage but without paying for unnecessary duplication.
Don't forget that the cost of your automobile insurance may do down substantailly after marriage, particularly for a young husband.
Immediately after marriage notify the issuers of all your credit cards and ask to have the accounts listed in both names. That way both of you can participate in the establishment of credit ratings.
Check out any special benefits that might be affected, such as employe pension plans, Veterans Administration benefits or membership benefits in professional and fraternal organizations.
And finally, try to work out an approximate budget for projected living costs. With the help of family and friends, you ought to be able to make at least rough estimates now, which can be refined as time passes.
This seems like a good time also to repeat as updated version of a question that first appeared last July:
Q: I am a 19-year-old student who worked last summer. I didn't earn much, and owed no taxes -- but I had to file a return to get a refund of the tax that was withheld. I expect to work again this summer; is there a way to avoid this hassle ?
A: There sure is. The IRS has a simple procedure to cover precisely the problem you write about.
If you had no income tax liability in 1979 and expect to have none in 1980, you can request your employer not to withhold any income tax.
Simply file with your employer a Form W-4 ("Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate") on which you claim exemption from tax withholding by writing "exempt" on line 3.
This will not get you off the hook for Social Security tax (FICA), which must be withheld in most cases; but it will eliminate income tax withholding.