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Money and Marriage

istock_000004369188xsmallIt’s that time of year again…wedding season. According to the Association of Bridal Consultants, nearly 22% of couples tie the knot in July and August. But after the rice is thrown and the cake is gone, couples are left to deal with one of the biggest causes of martial discord: managing their finances. Here are some tips to help you keep the peace:

Understand your differences. It’s not reasonable to assume that just because you tie the knot you all of a sudden become the same person. What you have to do, therefore, is understand HOW you are different, how those differences are going to worry or stress your partner, and keep lines of communications open so that you both understand what is happening with the family pie.

Joint or separate accounts? Try both. There is a school of thought that says the more you merge your money, the more you trust each other and the marriage. I am not completely of that school — quite possibly because I’ve been divorced. I am a big fan of joint AND separate accounts. The way this works best is if you come up with a household budget that the joint account will cover. It must include the amount you want to save for your joint goals (vacation, house, retirement, emergencies). Then figure out what equal percentage of both salaries will cover it, transfer that much in from the separate accounts, and leave the rest. And the bills covered by the joint accounts shouldn’t ALWAYS be paid by the same person. One will gravitate toward these tasks but make sure you switch it up at least once a year.

Financial autonomy is a must. When it comes to my marriage, I need to be able to buy a cup of coffee without checking with him. He needs to be able to do the same. If you don’t have this sort of financial independence, one spouse starts feeling like a parent and the other like a child.

Schedule Financial Dates. Once a week make time to talk about money. It should be a time when neither of you is overly tired or overly cranky. Perhaps after a television show you always watch together. During the week keep a list of items you want to make sure not to forget (it’s like a doctors visit, you want to be sure you put the time to good use) then discuss them. How much to put in the FSA, should you switch healthcare plans, are you paying too much for cable, should you re-allocate your 401(k), or you want a new flat-screen. All of these items are fair game.

Know What Pushes Your Own Buttons. If you are feeling nervous, worried, angry over money, try to understand what is behind your own feelings before you air them with your spouse. If you can understand why you feel a certain way, your spouse will have a greater likelihood of understanding it too.

Dream Out Loud. The best part about being a couple is dreaming together. Setting financial goals is a form of dreaming. Ask each other what do you want this year, next year, in 5 years, in 10. Then attach numbers to those dreams so you can figure out how you’ll get there.

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