Money makeover: Married couple, separate finances

spranger_zuckerberg.top.jpgMichelle Spranger and Scott Zuckerberg, Southfield, Mich. By Kate Ashford


(Money Magazine) -- Michelle Spranger and Scott Zuckerberg have been husband and wife for eight years, but they've yet to marry their finances.

Scott, 43, has a full-service broker, variable annuities, and a union pension, while Michelle, 42, uses a discount brokerage account and IRAs. Neither knows what the other is doing.

"The only thing we have together is a checking account," Michelle says. "We need to merge and have a common goal."

Troy, Mich., planner Warren McIntyre agrees. For starters, the couple aren't even sure how much they're saving annually. Both are self-employed: Michelle is a freelance producer, meeting planner, and writer earning $90,000 to $115,000 a year; Scott makes $60,000 to $75,000 as a lighting and rigging technician for films.

With fluctuating incomes, they must be really diligent about saving. McIntyre's advice: Sock away at least 15% of their pay. That, plus Scott's pension and their real estate, should get them to a comfortable retirement.

The solution

1. Aggregate their accounts. Michelle uses Quicken to balance the couple's checkbook and to keep tabs on her accounts. McIntyre suggests tracking Scott's accounts there too -- and for the couple once a year to go over their accounts together and rebalance their investments.

2. Use tax-deferred accounts. Michelle can use her SEP-IRA to hit her 15% savings target. Scott, who isn't eligible for a SEP, can fund a Roth IRA (after deducting expenses, the couple's adjusted gross income often allows for it) and should use that plan and taxable accounts.

3. Add bonds to the mix. Not counting rainy-day funds, just 2% of their nest egg is in cash and bonds -- too risky. It should be 25%.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.12%4.18%
15 yr fixed3.25%3.21%
5/1 ARM3.48%3.32%
30 yr refi4.18%4.17%
15 yr refi3.30%3.21%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,804.71 -238.19 -1.40%
Nasdaq 4,422.09 -71.30 -1.59%
S&P 500 1,946.16 -26.13 -1.32%
Treasuries 2.40 -0.10 -4.19%
Data as of 5:11pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.82 -0.23 -1.35%
Ford Motor Co 14.59 -0.20 -1.35%
Facebook Inc 76.55 -2.49 -3.15%
Apple Inc 99.18 -1.57 -1.56%
Cisco Systems Inc 25.03 -0.14 -0.56%
Data as of 4:03pm ET

Sections

In the last five years, pumpkin sales have risen 34% as people demand pumpkin in everything from beer to beef jerky. More

New York City launches a comprehensive site for all things related to its digital tech scene, Digital.NYC. More

New York City launches a comprehensive site for all things related to its digital tech scene, Digital.NYC. More

For these seniors, the best retirement is not to retire. From a 102-year-old Wal-Mart worker to an activist park ranger, these workers have stayed on the job well into their golden years. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.