THE EVEN HAPPIER COUPLE
Couples who have spent thousands on a wedding will be happy to hear there is some relief afterward. The Atlantic compared the finances of theoretical single women with their married counterparts, for instance, and calculated that marriage saves anywhere from $480,000 to more than $1 million over a lifetime. From discounts to taxes, a variety of savings accrue to married couples.
Premiums for some types of insurance are determined partly based on marital status. Auto insurance generally is cheaper for married men than single men -- statistics show they get in fewer accidents. Life insurance premiums can also drop after marriage, and homeowners or renters insurance may be cheaper for couples who move from two homes to one, then split the cost.
Many insurers offer multi-line discounts to people who buy more than one policy. Couples can switch some of their policies to the same one or two insurers to take advantage. Those who already use the same insurer should call an agent to have the discount applied.
If both partners receive benefits through work, they can now take their pick of the best offerings from each employer. One may provide better or less expensive health insurance plans. And one employer might offer a less common benefit, such as a dependent-care plan that allows payment for services such as day care, preschool, and after-school programs with pretax money.
JOINT TAX RETURNS
Married couples have the option to file a joint tax return, which can lead to big savings. There is no guarantee, though, and it can be difficult to determine without professional help. Deductions, capital gains and dividends, unearned income, and partners' individual incomes all must be factored in.
Just as sharing the cost of food and household goods saves each person money, splitting bills is a basic way to save. Each person pays just half of the electricity, cable, and other household bills. A joint account can be created for payment.
The New York Times has reported on an interesting phenomenon: college students marrying to save on tuition. This is because students must meet several requirements, including proof of financial independence, to qualify for lower in-state tuition. Marriage can establish independence quickly, as long as parents don't continue to claim their children as dependents. Several out-of-state students have received in-state tuition at universities in California after marrying, saving thousands as a result.
"Till death do you part" is often heard in marriage vows, but Social Security benefits go on providing for surviving partners after the other dies. The benefit, paid monthly, depends on the amount the deceased partner would receive and the age of the surviving spouse. When and if a survivor should take the benefit requires careful calculation. Waiting until a later age can increase the monthly payment, but sometimes it's best for widows and widowers to claim the survivor benefit early and their own benefit later.
Just as the survivor benefit helps surviving partners, there are estate tax laws that favor married couples after one partner dies. Federal law allows an estate to be left to a spouse tax free -- a potentially huge savings.
Investing for retirement in tax-advantaged accounts such as IRAs can lead to hundreds of thousands in savings over a lifetime. People without earned income generally cannot contribute to an IRA. One exception: Married people can contribute on a spouse's behalf.