Getting married is one of the biggest steps two people can take in their lives. There are a number of major changes that both people will need to address — both personally as well as financially — as a result of getting married. For example, the new couple will need to decide whether and to what extent to intermingle their finances going forward, and how to deal with assets that each individual may bring into the marriage (such as real estate and investments).
Retirement planning can also be significantly impacted by marriage. The process of planning for your own retirement when you are single is vastly different than having to plan for two. Let’s take a look at three key ways that marriage can impact retirement planning.
Depending on your and your new spouse’s work status, being married can increase the maximum contributions you can collectively make to your self-directed IRAs. It works like this: normally an individual must have earned income at least as great as the contribution they want to make in any given tax year. But when a married couple files a joint tax return, then they effectively have access to each claim a portion of that joint income as a basis for making a contribution to an IRA. This is a great outcome if one spouse works, but the other doesn’t.
Estate Planning Considerations.
Retirement planning and estate planning are often treated as wholly separate considerations, but in most cases they probably shouldn’t be. Think of it this way, if you’ve done a reasonably good job in saving for retirement, then the most valuable asset you have when you reach age 65 or 70 (apart from your home, perhaps) is likely to be your retirement nest egg.
As a result, the choices you make with your retirement savings — not just the investments you make and the asset types you hold within your account, but also the type of account you use in the first place — can make it easier (or harder) for you to reach your estate planning goals.
For example, a Roth self-directed IRA has certain advantages over a traditional account when it comes to passing your account to your spouse in the event you predecease them. While it’s possible to convert a traditional self-directed IRA into a Roth account, doing so can trigger current year tax liabilities, so there may be advantages for many young couples to simply start out within the Roth structure.
Each new spouse will likely have their own Social Security benefits to manage when it comes time to retire. Even an individual who doesn’t earn enough income to receive benefits based on their own income can be eligible for a spousal benefit based on their spouse’s work record.
Since a person’s monthly Social Security benefit check can vary significantly, depending on whether they take benefits as early as possible (age 62), or delay taking their benefits until age 70. This leads to a number of different benefit maximization strategies, which will depend greatly on the couple’s particular situation and circumstances, in which one spouse begins taking social security, and the couple lives off that income (as well as income from one or both of their IRAs), while the other spouse delays taking Social Security in order to maximize their monthly benefit.