There's an old saying that two can live as cheaply as one, but for only half as long. If only one of you is going to be working after you get married, extending one income to support two people can be a challenge. If you're combining two incomes, it usually improves your financial stability.
If you're a one-income family, filing a joint return works out much better than filing as a single. As of 2012, if you earn $40,000 and file as "single," you are in the 25 percent income tax bracket. On a joint return, the top rate you pay on the same income is 15 percent. If you're both bringing home the bacon, combining incomes usually results in about the same tax liability as your combined tax liabilities when you were single -- although it's possible that your combined incomes could push you into a higher bracket and increase your taxes slightly. That's often the case if you each bring down a high income.
Just because you're a couple doesn't mean your expenses automatically double. When your spouse moves in with you, you still have the same rent and TV-cable bills, and other bills -- electricity, heat -- shouldn't increase too much. If you continue to have two incomes, it's going to be easier to support one household than two. You can use other strategies, such as buying food in bulk and carpooling, to save even more. Another cost-saver: If one of you has a superior, less costly health plan, the other spouse can sign on.
Having someone by your side you can count on goes a long way to making life more stable. When your spouse's car is in the shop, you may be able to get her to work and back, instead of having to pay for a rental. If you hit a financial stumbling block, she can help cover the bills. When either of you has ideas about investments or a house down payment, you can talk about it knowing you have each other's best interests at heart.
Your financial stability can plummet after marriage if your spouse has serious money problems. You aren't responsible for her pre-marriage debts, but if she's shackled by heavy credit-card balances or student loans, it's going to be much harder for her to contribute financially. If her credit score and history are bad, that will hurt both of you if you buy a house together. Worse still, if her money-management issues aren't under control, she may continue piling up debt after you tie the knot. That's a recipe for disaster.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.