Recently engaged? Critical financial questions to ask before you say ‘I do’

(BPT) – Engagement season is officially here, with couples around the country saying “yes” to proposals and starting to plan their weddings. In fact, 39 percent of marriage proposals happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, according to While immediate discussions with your partner might be focused on the ceremony venue or honeymoon location, there’s another important consideration before saying “I do:” having the “finance talk.”
Joining your lives through marriage also means joining your lives financially. Having a solid understanding about money, which includes insurance, will help ensure a marriage remains strong long after the honeymoon is over.

However, the reality is that many couples are skipping important conversations. While 71 percent of newly married couples acknowledge the importance of sharing beneficiary designations before marrying, almost half never got around to addressing their life insurance needs prior to the wedding, according to a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). And it’s not just young couples who are skipping the conversation – newlywed couples age 55 and older are more likely to have discussed their household entertainment budget than their life insurance coverage.

Talking about combining finances and future insurance needs can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Avoid misunderstandings and help ensure your marriage remains strong by having a talk about these matters as soon as possible.

Well before the big day, couples should schedule a pre-wedding discussion to directly address auto, home, health and life insurance needs. Here are some questions to get the conversation started:

* Do we plan on renovating our current home? 
* If we both own homes, should we rent or sell the other home once we move in together?

Keep in mind, a renovation investment of $5,000 or more could change your home’s replacement value and insurance needs. Additionally, switching a property from being a homestead to a rental will require you to carry different insurance.

* Which health plan should we keep? 
* Should we each be on the same plan, or maintain individual plans? 
* What is the best approach for insuring our children, or stepchildren?

Having health insurance isn’t only important for each person in a marriage, but starting in 2014, it is subject to considerable changes in law. When analyzing plans, remember the lowest premium isn’t the only consideration. Review all plan elements, including deductibles and co-pays. Most couples have the opportunity to combine plans, but only after they are legally married and not before.

* How’s your driving history? 
* Do you have any accidents or violations? 

Getting married may have a positive effect when you combine your auto insurance plan, but a lower rate is dependent on both you and your spouse’s driving records. If you married a speed demon, it might not make sense to combine policies even after you say “I do.” Have the talk and do your research.

* Do you currently have life insurance? 
* How much life insurance is enough? 

Now that “I” means “we,” couples should evaluate life insurance based on future income potential, the cost of raising children and outstanding mortgage payments. Remember, in many states, your new spouse does not automatically become your beneficiary on existing insurance policies. Once you tie the knot, you must proactively contact your HR department or other health and life insurance providers to change beneficiaries.

If you’re looking for a fun, lighthearted way to approach the sometimes sensitive subjects of money and insurance, sit down with your significant other and review the “Insurance Survival Guide for Newlyweds” available on the NAIC’s website, On the site, you also can play NAIC’s new “I Do Adventures” interactive game, which allows players to drive and earn points while learning valuable insurance facts and lessons.