Couples and Money: When Together Is Better

Even if you and your spouse have worked out the kinks in your day-to-day money habits, it’s important to reexamine the big picture.

Photo of couple featured in article
Jesse and Roxanne Lopez
(Image credit: Photograph by Josh Ritchie)

If you’ve been married for a few years, you and your spouse have probably figured out which expenses and bank and credit accounts to share and which to keep separate. But when it comes to your big-picture finances—such as getting the most out of your retirement plans, coordinating health coverage and lowering your tax bill—the decisions get more complicated. In fact, the strategies that worked best for you as individuals can look entirely different when you approach them as a couple.

In 2008, Scott Godes of Rockville, Md., was working at a firm that didn’t offer a match for his 401(k) contributions. His wife, Deb, did receive a match. Instead of contributing to his 401(k), he used the money to pay off a home equity line of credit the couple had taken to upgrade their home, and she contributed enough to her 401(k) to capture the match. Their goal was to decrease their debts while saving as much as possible, Scott says. “We had to coordinate and recognize that we were doing things differently, but for the benefit of both of us.”

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Miriam Cross
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Miriam lived in Toronto, Canada, before joining Kiplinger's Personal Finance in November 2012. Prior to that, she freelanced as a fact-checker for several Canadian publications, including Reader's Digest Canada, Style at Home and Air Canada's enRoute. She received a BA from the University of Toronto with a major in English literature and completed a certificate in Magazine and Web Publishing at Ryerson University.