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Financial Issues Before the Wedding
Before you start talking about the flowers or the cake or the vows, have a serious conversation about finances. Money can be one of the main causes of marital discord and even divorce, so it makes sense to be on the same page before you tie the knot. CNN.com suggests that couples should take five financial steps before they head down the aisle:
Talk about goals. It is important to understand what financial goals each person has. Each partner can write down his or her financial goals and fears: Do you want to retire early? Is it important to pay the total cost of children’s education? Do you want to buy a house right away? Then share the lists. You probably will find that you have some shared goals and some goals that you do not share. Then you can begin to prioritize and identify ways to work toward achieving those goals.
Be open about your financial situation. Each person should list all of his or her debts and assets; it can be useful for each person to create a statement of net worth. You also should disclose any financial responsibilities. Are you paying alimony or child support? Do you have an agreement to provide financial assistance for a family member or close friend?
Discuss how you will handle your family finances. Some couples merge everything and have only joint accounts; others keep at least some money separate. Are you going to pay household bills jointly, or is each of you going to be responsible for paying certain bills? How do you handle savings? Who is in charge of actually paying the bills? Virtually any arrangement that you agree on can work, but you have to be in agreement.
Make a budget. Unless you are extraordinarily wealthy, you probably cannot buy whatever you want. Look at your spending history, and decide on a budget. How much will you spend for housing, food, entertainment, travel? How much will you save, and for what? If might work better if each person has a certain amount of discretionary money to spend without having to account for it to the other person.
Do some basic estate planning. Even if you are young and childless, you should do some basic planning such as writing a will, naming a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, and creating a living will. That gives you the peace of mind that if anything happens to either of you, the other would know what to do and be able to do it. If your life is more complicated – if you have children and former spouses, for example – your estate planning probably will be more complex. And don’t forget to change the beneficiary on your life insurance, retirement plan and any other document in which you named a beneficiary.