By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

Still picking rice out of your hair? Your new marriage means it's time to review and revise all of your planning:


Marriage means combined incomes, a different risk profile, and new planning objectives. As newlyweds review your overall financial goals and objectives, and revise all of your investments accordingly.

Current Investments:

As newlyweds, you may retain separate investment accounts for different reasons, including segregate gift or inherited assets, to protect their immunity in the event the marriage doesn't work out, as a result of an express provision in your prenuptial agreement, or because one of you has greater malpractice risk. But, even if you keep separate accounts, you should coordinate your overall investment planning as a family. To do this efficiently, consolidate your accounts with one manager. Approach 1: If you maintain separate accounts, each account could have its own asset allocation. If the marriage doesn't work out it will be much easier to divide everything fairly, rather than if you had only equities and your spouse had only bonds. Approach 2: Use an aggregate approach with an overall asset allocation for both of you so that the accounts as a whole are balanced. With this approach, you can focus tax exempt funds on less tax efficient investment transactions, and the spouse most at risk for malpractice might hold the hedge funds and alternatives, which would be harder for a claimant to seize.


Your goals, needs and lifestyles are likely to change from when you were each single. So, it's really worth revising your budget in light of the new objectives. This can be then coordinated with your investment planning revisions. The budget should start to take into account the long term goals most single people don't address, like a new home, a child, and even retirement.

Prenuptial agreement:

Pre-nups are common and need to be considered well before your marriage. If one should have been completed, but wasn't, a post-nuptial agreement can be done. While it's likely not to be as effective as a pre-nuptial agreement, it can still avoid a lot of heartache if the marriage doesn't work out. Also, pre- and post-nuptial agreements can be used to backstop asset protection and other planning. In any event, whether you have a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, signing it should not be the end of its relevance to your planning. Even if it was an unpleasant experience, don't ignore it. Consider periodically how the agreement affects your planning. Once done, the handling of all post-marital finances should be addressed in accordance with the provisions of the prenuptial agreement. For example, if one spouse is to pay certain expenses or keep separate accounts, that should be done. If accounts are supposed to be titled in a certain way, do so. If you vary from the agreement, document that you are intentionally doing so. If the variations are significant have your respective matrimonial counsels prepare a modification. In the event of divorce, the pre-nup will be much more useful if all of its provisions are followed throughout the marriage.

Life Insurance:

Most singles don't have life insurance, but when you're married you may have bought a house, or taken on more debt then before. Debt and financial obligations indicate a need for insurance to address the risk of death. The fact that you and your spouse are both working doesn't mean that the unexpected death of one of you won't affect the survivor in a financially ruinous manner. If you are counting on two incomes to help pay all of the bills, then the loss of one of those incomes can have huge consequences. Insurance is likely to be inexpensive and easily obtainable at this young stage of your lives. If a child is even a possibility, get insurance in force well in advance. The time to consider coverage is not after the baby is born.

Disability Coverage:

If you have a large mortgage for the first time, a disability of either one of you would be a financial disaster. Disability planning may not have been an issue when you were single, because neither of you may have had the level of debt and "overhead" that you now have as a married couple.


As a married couple, you need new wills, powers of attorney and living wills. At this stage, each of you may name your own family members as agents, and not your new spouse, but these issues need to be addressed.

Beneficiary Designations:

Don't forget to update your IRA, retirement plan, insurance and other beneficiary designations to reflect your new spouse, if that is your intent.

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