My wife and I are newlyweds, and we are fortunate enough to have little debt and respectable incomes - since StackExchange is neither anonymous or private I won't disclose the real numbers, but I can describe our general setup:
We currently run the house via joint checking (ex. rent, groceries, etc.) and joint savings (ex. house/car down payments, emergencies); beyond that we retained our private checking accounts for personal holdings.
Both of us have retirement plans. She a 401k that her employer supplements (not sure the %). I have two, one is CalPERS state retirement which is formulaic (unalterable) and the second is a 457 that I pay into each month (not supplemented). Both of us are 25+ years from retirement.
We will be debt free (no loans, no cars, no house payments, no credit card) by May 1st, and will be looking to buy a home within the following 12 months. Within two years after purchasing the house we would like to invest in peer-to-peer lending.
I am looking for advice on best practices for newlyweds, to get their fiscal lives off to the best start. Topics of interest include:
Joint Tax Filing - What are the real benefits of doing such? Note, we've been married since October 2011.
Optimizing Exemptions - We need help finding that sweet spot where we maximize our claimed exemptions (freeing up monthly income for tax-deferred investments like 401/457), without owing tax money at the end of the year.
Financial Strategy - How can we optimize deductions to position ourselves in the best possible tax bracket?
Making the most of compound interest - does it make sense for us both to focus on overloading one person's retirement account to get the interest ball rolling? or should we contribute equally to each? It seems the first scenario is financial best, but I could be naive here...
Anything else is welcome and encouraged. Thanks in advance for your time and efforts.
EDIT: To clarify #2
Let's say my exemptions are 0 right now and I get a 2k return... what I'm trying to do is find the magic number of exemptions to forfeit a my tax return in favor of freeing up as much money possible to invest in my tax deferred 457, without owing tax at the end of the year.
As for kids... we are planning on one here in a year, and the scenario above, its already accounted for... :)