| March 27, 2012

Get on the same financial page before marriage

Getting married is one of the most important steps a person will take in his or her life. But before saying "I do," it's important that couples make sure they are same page when it comes to managing their finances, combining and paying off debt, and setting financial goals.

Walking into a marriage with heavy credit card debt, student loans and other lines of credit can be difficult if couples have not discussed their debt management strategies. However, this can be alleviated before a marriage by taking the time to develop a joint budget and establish a money management plan that helps couples pay down balances and work toward mutual goals.

The first step is to create a budget. This can be one of the most effective ways to help couples who have different spending habits discipline their financial behaviors and prepare for combining their debt and expenses, according to Kiplinger.com. Couples should tally up how much they each owe on different credit accounts plus their housing, utilities and other living expenses. In addition, they should also discuss how much they plan to put toward savings, an emergency fund or retirement and include these amounts in their money management plan. One of the most difficult aspects of combining finances with another person may be coming to an agreement about discretionary spending. Couples may either choose to set rules for themselves over how much they can spend each month, or work with a professional to explore different budgeting strategies that can help each partner fulfill his or her needs.

Bringing debt into a marriage can have an effect on how couples establish and work toward their goals, so developing a repayment plan is important to eliminate unnecessary balances. While some debt, such as student, auto loans and mortgages, have their own repayment timeline, couples should focus on eliminating credit card debt that is weighing them down and keeping them from contributing more money toward savings or retirement. Paying down high interest balances first, keeping spending low and getting the most out of rewards cards can help couples chip away at balances and, in some cases, earn money for responsible spending.

Lastly, couples should always plan for an emergency. Whether one partner already has emergency savings or both are starting from scratch, remember that there are two people to account for after a marriage, and having a sufficient financial cushion can help newlyweds stave off financial disasters.

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