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Couples who plan on spending their lives together should have a financial plan that they both agree upon and understand. You should spend some time together discussing how you each use and view money and what your financial goals are.

If you don’t acknowledge and discuss any money issues you have from the start, they’re likely to become a point of contention in your relationship down the road. Olivia Mellan, a Washington D.C. psychotherapist specializing in money conflict resolution says that research has found that issues about money are typically one of the top two reasons given for a divorce. Mellan cautions newlyweds not to merge all their money right from the start. If you want to merge money, merge it slowly over time as your trust and knowledge of your partner increases.

Consider the following as you begin to work out your future financial relationship:

• Divide financial tasks so that you are both “in the loop.” Most of the time, women pay the bills and handle the budgeting while only a fraction of women are involved in investment and tax planning. It’s important to trade responsibilities regularly, or at least give each other frequent updates, so that each of you understands the “other side.”
• Make decisions about money and purchases together so that you both stay informed and neither person becomes too entrenched in his or her own money style.
• It’s never too early to begin saving for retirement. Discuss your retirement dreams and financial expectations. Agree on common goals and timelines, so that you can begin now to invest in a retirement plan for your future.
• Be sure that you both maintain credit in your own names. As a woman, it’s essential that you maintain your own credit history. Having your own line of credit is particularly important if you decide to start your own business or if you become widowed or divorced.
• Don’t forget to update your beneficiary designations such as on insurance policies and retirement accounts.
• If you’re changing your name, be sure to file the change with the Social Security Administration and Department of Motor Vehicles. Also notify your bank and other creditors.

Should you consider a prenuptial agreement? According to the American Bar Association, 1.2 million couples in the U.S. split up each year. And even though none of us likes to think it may happen to us, you should seriously consider a prenuptial agreement if:

• This is not the first marriage for either of you or if there are children from a previous marriage involved.
• One or both of you have substantial assets such as a home, stocks or a retirement fund you acquired before marriage.
• One or both of you own a business.
• One or both of you anticipate receiving an inheritance.
• One of you is significantly wealthier than the other.

Remember to keep any agreement you sign up to date as circumstances change.

If you’ve already tied the knot, it’s still not too late to sign a prenuptial agreement. You simply need to be able to prove what each spouse brought to the marriage. If a prenuptial agreement is not for you, see if changes in your estate plan can accomplish many of the same goals.

Provided by courtesy of Brian Court, a Senior Vice President with GunnAllen Financial, Member NASD/SIPC in Port Jefferson, NY.

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