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How not to let money troubles spoil a marriage
Finances » Seven steps experts recommend to steer clear of potential pitfalls.
First Published May 19 2012 09:51 pm • Last Updated May 20 2012 12:22 am

Newlyweds and couples moving toward marriage, take note. Love, as it turns out, is not all you need.

Not if your goal is to avoid the No. 1 reason marriages end in divorce: Money problems.

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Everyone knows, or should know, this. But love and a reluctance to take a hard look at our own financial habits, often keep us from seeing, much less confronting, potential financial troubles in a relationship.

Failing to do so, however, can lead to serious post-wedding day troubles.

"Mature, responsible conversations about money are a sign of a marriage that’s going to be healthy and wonderful and enduring," said Brooke Salvini, a certified financial planner based in San Louis Obispo, Calif. "If you can’t talk about money when you are dating, that is a red flag right there."

To get the conversation rolling, here are seven steps experts recommend to steer clear of potential marital money troubles:

Disclose financial records » Before corporations merge they go through a period when both sides get a close look at each other’s financial records. Take the same approach before you get hitched.

Swap statements for your bank accounts, credit cards, student loans, retirement accounts and so on. Also share credit reports and FICO scores.

"Not only can you start to put together a balance sheet of what the two of you own and what your debts are, you can start to discuss ‘do we want to combine our checking account?’" says Salvini.


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Discuss financial goals » A huge part of getting in sync with your spouse begins with discussing major life goals and the necessary financial commitments.

Discuss short-term goals, such as paying off credit card debt, and then craft a budget that sets you clearly on a path toward your goals.

Budget your spending » Failing to create and stick to a mutually agreed upon budget can lead to marital strife.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, though. Start off by listing monthly income. Be sure to add in interest earned on money-market accounts and dividends from any investments. Then add up expenses, everything from car payments, rent, to groceries, gym membership and utilities.

If you’re making more than you spend each month, you can begin planning how to set aside money for long-term financial goals. If not, time to consider ways to cut spending.

Treat your money as our money » Many newlyweds continue to see the money they earn individually as their own, much like if they might merely be roommates. They keep separate bank accounts and pitch in, perhaps equally, or not, to paying bills.

But that can lead to problems, especially if one spouse earns a lot more than the other, says Anthony Chambers, a clinical psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University.

If both spouses work, he suggests they arrange for their paychecks to be deposited directly into a joint account that’s used to pay all shared expenses. If they feel they need to have some of their own play money in a separate account, that’s fine. But Chambers says the funds should come from the joint account so both spouses know where the money is going.

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