How Getting Married Helps and Hurts Your FinancesGetting married doesn’t just unite you and your partner in holy matrimony; it also ties you together financially, and changes the way some rules apply to you. Most of the changes are positive, but depending on your circumstances, marriage can also sometimes throw a wrench into your life. While you almost definitely shouldn’t decide to get married for monetary reasons, knowing the benefits and potential hassles in front of you can help you and your partner plan a better future together. If you’re recently hitched or thinking of tying the knot soon, read on to learn how marriage can change how your personal finances work.

Taxes

Filing your taxes jointly with your spouse gives you a number of advantages, including an increased standard deduction, additional exemptions and the ability to combine itemizations. These benefits become especially valuable if there’s a high level of income disparity between you and your spouse, or if one of you qualifies for special deductions, as you can effectively use that spouse as a tax shelter. Additionally, married couples can give property much more easily, as their annual and lifetime gift tax exemption amount doubles, their gifts to one another are exempt from the gift tax and any inheritance one spouse leaves to another after they pass away is exempt from the estate tax.

While many couples will enjoy lower taxes after marriage, unfortunately not all are so lucky. Married couples with combined income under $40,000 or above $150,000 can suffer from the marriage penalty, particularly if both spouses make similar amounts of money. Thankfully, 2018 is the last tax season most people will have to worry about this, as the new tax act passed in December of 2017 eliminated the marriage penalty for couples making under $600,000 combined per year. Apart from that, there are a few specific instances where marriage can make taxes harder. Students with financial aid may want to postpone getting hitched, as your combined income with your spouse may disqualify you for the aid you’re getting. Also, if you make any mistakes or cheat on your joint tax filing, both spouses share culpability for those errors, and any tax refund garnishments from child support or an unpaid loan that one partner is bringing to the table will reduce any joint refund you both get.

Insurance

The good news is that married couples tend to pay less for both auto insurance and home insurance than singles, as couples can combine policies to save money and get access to lower rates due to insurance companies considering them more responsible. Married people also can benefit from their spouse’s health coverage under a family plan, so if your spouse has access to a better health care plan than you, you can hop onto it. Conveniently, since marriage counts as a qualifying life event, after you get married, you can add a new spouse to a health care plan even when it isn’t open enrollment season (just be aware that you typically have a limited time, often 60 days after the marriage, to get this done).

The bad news is that marriage can disqualify you from Affordable Care Act subsidies for your health coverage, as your income combined with your spouse’s may put you over the subsidy limit. However, if you decide to get a family plan with your partner, be prepared for your deductible to go up, as family plans often have twice the deductible of individual plans. This may not be so bad if the plan is embedded, meaning each individual on the plan has their own deductible which is a fraction of the family deductible (for instance, an embedded family plan with a $6,000 deductible that covers two people would have individual deductibles of $3,000, so if one person had a $5,000 medical bill, they would have to pay $3,000 before the plan kicked in). If the plan is aggregate, though, you only have the family deductible, which translates into more out-of-pocket costs for healthcare.

Retirement and Benefits

A huge monetary upside to marriage is the fact that spouses can transfer benefits to one another, such as Medicare, disability and veteran’s benefits. Once a married couple gets to retirement age, they also get additional options for collecting Social Security benefits. Married people can claim Social Security based on their own earnings record, or they can receive 50% of the benefit for which their spouse is eligible. While this is normally used as a way for unemployed spouses who handled domestic duties to have some kind of retirement to fall back on, dual-income couples with high income disparities can also use it. Furthermore, if one spouse passes away, widows and widowers can claim survivors benefits equal to what their spouse would have received (though you cannot collect both your benefits and your spouse’s benefits at the same time). Finally, as a small bonus, an unemployed person can open an individual retirement account, which is normally reserved for workers, as long as they’re married to someone who’s employed.

Credit

Contrary to what some people believe, your individual credit doesn’t actually change at all on its own once you get married. The only change you may see on your individual credit reports are a new alias if you happened to take your partner’s name. However, married couples often wind up linking their credit together through joint accounts, authorized user agreements and loans, and how well that goes depends on each spouse’s behavior and credit histories. For example, if you open a joint credit card with your partner, one spouse’s bad spending and repayment habits with the new card will have a negative impact on both of your credit scores. Similarly, one partner having a spotty credit history can impact the interest rates you have access to for loans. Before you tie your credit together with your spouse’s, you both may want to check your credit scores together to see how you compare. If one person has significantly lower scores, you may want to work on boosting their credit and encouraging good financial habits. If neither of you have great credit, you may want to consider using a credit repair service, some of which offer discounts for couples. Otherwise, it might be best to just keep your credit accounts separate.

When you’re deliberating whether you want to take that next big step and get married to your significant other, make sure you include finances in your decision-making process. For more information on how you can maximize your money, follow our personal finance blog.