Spring 2008 – Special Edition: Money Tips for All Ages
For Newlyweds: Starting a Household on Solid Ground Financially
For newlyweds, the first big financial decisions go beyond how to pay for the honeymoon and how to invest all those checks. They also involve starting a new household on solid ground financially. "Financial incompatibility is a primary reason for a significant number of failed marriages," said Lee Bowman, National Coordinator for Community Affairs. "Achieving harmony regarding financial matters before marriage, or as early in the marriage as possible, is critical to sustaining the relationship and preventing conflicts."
Before exchanging wedding vows, have a candid discussion about your finances. Be open and honest about matters that could be a source of friction in the future, such as major outstanding debts from student loans or credit cards.
Some experts suggest that both of you order your latest credit reports and then, together, sit down and review them to avoid major surprises. Credit reports include information on debts outstanding and, for example, whether someone has filed for bankruptcy. By federal law, you can receive one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies (www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228).
Set short-term and long-term financial goals. Figure out how much money each of you should be able to spend for "fun" and how much you should set aside for important goals, perhaps to buy a home. Financial advisors suggest that young couples consider preparing and following a monthly budget.
Understand the risks and responsibilities of jointly held accounts. If a husband and wife are co-owners of a credit card and one of them goes on a spending spree, the other spouse may be held responsible for paying the bill. Likewise, irresponsible use of a jointly owned credit card by one spouse would be reported on both of their credit histories, and that could damage the "innocent" partner's chances of getting a good loan or credit card in the future. And when two people use the same checking account, they should share one checkbook and record all transactions, because otherwise they risk losing track of their balance and paying charges for insufficient funds.