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Tips For Major Life Events:
Ways to Cope Financially During and After a Big Change

Here are suggestions for staying focused and avoiding costly decisions during changing times.

Getting married. Newlyweds should say "I do" to a plan to manage money together responsibly. Before getting married, a couple should understand each other's attitudes toward saving and spending money. And to avoid big surprises, they also should know about any major outstanding debts held by their partner. A husband and wife also should set short-term and long-term financial goals.

Buying your first home. For most people, buying a home will be the biggest expense of their life, starting with the initial purchase (including a "down payment" and fees paid to the lender and others) followed by years of monthly mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance and maintenance costs. But homeownership often can be a tremendous (perhaps your best) investment and a source of tax breaks as well as stability.

A new child. A new member of the family brings extra financial responsibilities. You can have one fewer thing to interrupt your sleep at night if you get the family finances in shape. Start by getting spending under control. Also build your savings accounts for short-term expenses (especially if a spouse will be leaving a job) and long-term needs (including college tuition costs). In addition, review and update your insurance coverage (life, health, disability) and wills (to designate who will raise the child and handle finances in case of your death).

The death of a family member. Contact the deceased person's attorney and other financial advisors. Before committing to any funeral costs, consult with other family members and the lawyer about any prior instructions or arrangements.

Locate important documents, such as insurance policies and the most recent will (an original, not a copy). Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate, which will be needed to apply for death benefits (such as through life insurance policies or Social Security) and to access bank and brokerage accounts.

If the family's medical insurance is through the deceased person's employer, consider options for continuing coverage.

Also, if your family has deposits of more than $100,000 at one bank, and one of the depositors or beneficiaries dies, you should review the coverage to determine whether funds exceed the insurance limits. The FDIC's rules allow a six-month grace period after a depositor's death to give survivors or estate planners a chance to restructure accounts. But if you fail to act within six months, you run the risk of, for example, joint accounts becoming part of the survivor's individual accounts, and that could put the funds over the $100,000 limit. Also note that the death of an owner or a beneficiary named in trust accounts can reduce the deposit insurance coverage.

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