Investing is one of the most efficient ways to save for retirement; Social Security benefits are not enough to cover all of your living expenses, especially when you consider inflation. People most often seek retirement advice about whether they and their spouse should share a retirement account or if it’s best for them to open separate accounts. The choice ultimately depends on your situation, your goals, and your personal preferences.
Investing before marriage
The earlier you start investing in your retirement, the better off you will be financially when the time comes. Because many people concentrate on their careers before getting married, it’s reasonable to expect your future spouse to already have retirement accounts set in place before you exchange vows with him or her. It doesn’t make sense to wait to start saving until after getting married unless that is your only option.
When you get married, you’ll need to decide whether or not you should combine your retirement accounts. Depending on the kind of accounts you each have, the two of you also have the option of keeping your individual savings in place and opening a new account together. This helps to further increase your savings while maintaining your comfort level.
In some cases, one spouse is the sole breadwinner while the other is the homemaker. Although the homemaker helps to save the family money on costs related to childcare and cleaning, this doesn’t mean that he or she is not able to also have a retirement account.
If you are the sole provider for your family, you should strongly consider adding your spouse to your retirement account. This will allow you to maximize the tax savings on your account, and the two of you will be covered when the time comes to withdraw the funds.
Possible risks of combining retirement accounts
There are always risks when you combine money, which is one of the reasons why people hesitate to have joint retirement accounts. If you ever get divorced, your spouse may be entitled to some of the funds, even if you contributed most of the money.
This is a serious subject to talk over with your spouse. You may even consider getting a prenuptial agreement to err on the side of caution.
The bottom line of retirement planning
When it comes to the question of whether or not you should combine retirement accounts with your spouse, there is no right or wrong answer. If you two are already investing in the future, then you are already engaging in the most important factor in setting up retirement funds. The decision to open a joint retirement account is ultimately up to you.
It is also important to keep in mind that you can decide to combine accounts at a later date. To some couples, joint retirement investments are as big of a commitment as getting married. No pressure should be involved when it comes time to decide to combine accounts. If for some reason either one of you is not comfortable with the idea of a joint account, then keep your investments separate. Just be certain that the two of you keep investing so that you can live comfortably together through your golden years.
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Jeff Rose is a certified financial planner and author of the blogs Good Financial Cents and Soldier of Finance. Learn more about his Roth IRA Movement that has inspired over 140 personal finance to educate young adults on the importance of saving.