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Should you combine investment accounts when you get married?

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Mingling money after marriage isn't necessarily the best strategy

After you walk down the aisle, you'll have a lot of decisions to make, especially about how you and your spouse will handle the money you've been investing on your own for years.


Because you've already integrated the rest of your lives, your instinct may be to combine your finances. But there may be reasons to keep your investing accounts separate from your spouse's. Each couple is unique and that they should consider their own personal circumstances when making this decision.


Traditionally, when individuals got married, they united everything. However, this has changed in recent years. Men used to be the only breadwinners, but women are now earning more money and exercising greater financial power. As a result, more people are opting to keep their funds separate but work together toward their goals rather than combining them.


When determining whether or not to merge your investing accounts, there are benefits and drawbacks to consider. For starters, integrating your investment accounts (and your finances in general) can make managing your money as a couple considerably easier. You'd have fewer accounts to manage, management fees to pay, and investments to keep track of.


On the other hand, combining financial accounts can be a source of conflict for a couple, especially if one partner enters the marriage with little to no money saved or invested and the other has.


In the event of a divorce, you may not always agree on how to divide your joint investment accounts. 


The financial outcome of a divorce will be determined by the state you're in. Depending on the state, the reason for the divorce, and the conditions of the prenuptial agreement, if there is one, the marriage law and your rights to the other person's assets will vary.


It's also worth noting that, while brokerage accounts can be combined, retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs cannot. Because 401(k) accounts are linked to a company's employment, only the employee can open one and contribute to it. In the case of IRAs, the term "individual retirement account" refers to the fact that the account has only one owner.


If combining investment accounts isn't for you and your spouse, remember that you can still name each other as beneficiaries on your investment accounts, including your retirement funds.


Your spouse, who you selected as a beneficiary in this situation, will not be able to contribute to your investment accounts, but they will have access to your account and funds once you pass away. If one spouse dies, the other spouse inherits the account, which they can then roll into their own 401(k), IRA, or other account. Making each other the beneficiary of your own retirement accounts ensures that you are both financially secure in the future.


You can also register a whole new combined brokerage account once you're married, while keeping your individual brokerage accounts separate. Both partners will be able to contribute money and make transactions through a shared brokerage account.


It can be difficult to decide whether or not to combine your investment accounts with your spouse. However, keep in mind that you can have different accounts while still working together to create your money. Just because you keep your funds separate doesn't mean you're not collaborating on your financial goals. You just have your money in various accounts.


Most crucially, it is wise to have this discussion before getting married. This allows couples to set expectations and make a plan for achieving future financial goals.

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This publication is designed to provide general information and is for discussion purposes only. The effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon each individual’s facts and circumstances. This article does not provide legal, tax or account advice. Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error, the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information is not guaranteed.