Money-wise advice for newlyweds tying the knot

The Tri-Cities’ beloved retired four-star general, Jim Mattis, has married for the first time. Huzzah!

His wife, Christina Lomasney, is an entrepreneur-executive at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

These newlyweds, whom I do not know personally, arguably have complex personal and financial lives and likely will have many financial matters yet to sort out.

They’re no different from many other couples tying the knot.

If I was their fiduciary financial advisor, here are some of the first steps I would suggest they – and most newlyweds – would be money-wise to focus on after saying “I do.”

What’s important to you?

 This is such an exciting time, the first days after getting married.

As a new couple, I encourage you to have ongoing talks and dream a little about where your new life together might take you. Don’t hold back. If money was no object, what would you do with your time and energy as a couple? What people, causes, and activities are important to you?

Combined or separate finances?

 Do you plan on combining your finances, keeping them separate or some combination of both?

How involved in each other’s financial lives do you plan to be?

Oftentimes, there is a financially dominant partner in a relationship.

Will you have a family meeting to discuss money matters together, if so, how often? How will important decisions be made?

Establishing healthy communication early on in a relationship can help put both of you at ease. When each person feels comfortable expressing their needs, feels listened to and respected, resentment is far less likely to build up.

Do either of you have a successful business, sizable inheritance, or debts you would like to keep separate? If so, consider a prenuptial agreement, which can still be done after saying “I do.”

It’s also important to consider your state laws. Washington is one of nine community property states, which means that property acquired during marriage is owned equally. This matters at death or divorce.  For people with complex lives who might have out-of-state property, the law can get complicated so seek counsel.


 Couples have choices when it comes to taxes, married filing jointly (MFJ) or separately (MFS).

Typically, MFJ offers more deductions than MFS and results in lower tax liability in most cases.  

MFS can make sense in certain situations, such as business owners attempting to qualify for a qualified business income deduction (QBI) or a student loan situation.

You will want to check whether your new filing status and adjusted gross income will affect your ability to contribute to tax-advantaged accounts.

It’s always good to talk to a tax pro – after all, what normal person really understands taxes?

Get a tax projection for this year, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the additional tax perks getting married brings.

Age gap

 Like a lot of couples, age differences can bring with it certain planning challenges regarding health care, your retirement vision and income planning. 

It can be hard to map out a mutual retirement journey in terms of time and activities as well as coordinate when to start income streams like pensions or Social Security.

There is a good chance the younger spouse will outlive the other, another important planning opportunity.

There can be advantages to an age gap as well. If your spouse is still working, clearly that means there is an additional stream of income, reducing the reliance on your investments. It also could mean continued company-sponsored health insurance, access to a portable long-term care program and other employer benefits. 

And if the spouse is at least 10 years younger and the only beneficiary of your IRA, the required distributions at 72, are reduced.

Sooner or later, you will have to talk about death and dying. It is a hard conversation to have any day of the year, but you have to do it. This all ties back to the beginning, what is important to you? Talk about your wishes for your money, your family. What do you want your money to mean to your kids or others? When do you want to see that happen?

Have a frank and open conversation about your end-of-life wishes and share that with other important family members.

To make your wishes become reality, you must finalize – yes, actually sign – documents with your estate planning attorney.

It’s also a good time to review your beneficiary designations, life insurance policies and work benefits as you may want to add your new spouse to them.

Name change

 Finally, if you or your spouse is planning on a name change, set a deadline and attempt to do that in one fell swoop, starting with your driver’s license and Social Security card. There are many how-to checklists online as a guide.

The best days are ahead
There will be an adjustment period as you settle into your new lives together.

Love can be fresh, shiny and new, and there’s nothing better!

Here’s wishing a long and happy marriage to those taking the plunge, including the general and his new wife.

Angie Furubotten-LaRosee is a certified financial planner, speaker, podcaster and founder of Avea Financial Planning LLC, a Richland firm offering fiduciary financial advice and investment management for a flat fee, specializing in retiring folks, especially from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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