Before you head to the chapel, though, make sure you and your betrothed find time to sit down and discuss one of the most important issues affecting married couples: family finances. Study after study shows financial difficulties are the leading cause of divorce, which makes it vital to talk before wedding bells start ringing.
Joshua Kadish, a financial adviser at the RPG-Life Transition Specialists wealth management firm in Northbrook, Ill., says the conversation should start with each spouse opening up about there they stand financially, so there no big surprises later.
"Few people speak about the link between finance and relationships, yet money often acts as a major contributing factor to divorce," Kadish says. "Understanding how to navigate through financial challenges and preparing for the future will allow you to build a strong financial foundation for your relationship."
Here are Kadish's suggestions on areas to cover first:
Credit score. Lousy credit may be a harbinger of financial problems, so if one spouse has a credit score below 600, for example, it's best to examine the underlying issues and create a plan to fix them, probably by reducing spending and paying down debt.
Annual income. Once marriage nears reality there's no need to hold back on discussing annual incomes. You'll need both annual income figures to determine what kind of house you can afford and how the bills will be paid. "Don't forget to take into consideration a partner who makes significantly more or has a commission-based income," Kadish says.
Savings. You'll want to discuss savings for a critical reason: The spouses need to know if there's a savings reserve or if they're living paycheck to paycheck. If so Kadish says there needs to be a plan that allocates money to an emergency fund. "Ideally, you should have six months' salary in the bank for an adequate financial cushion," Kadish says.
Bank accounts. Will your bank accounts be separate or bundled? "Determining whether bank accounts will be separate or joint before the wedding can prevent financial fights down the road," Kadish advises. A combination can work, as long a joint account is used to pay shared expenses, such as mortgage and utilities.
Other big financial issues to discuss include health insurance (especially, whose is more beneficial), budgeting and a shared retirement plan.
Nobody can predict the future or how a marriage will pan out. But being clear about finances improves the chances of living happily ever after.
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