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For Richer Or Poorer

  With about 2.4 million people nationwide taking the plunge each year, many
people are entering marriage with previously acquired property, debt, investment
portfolios, and, sometimes, significant financial obligations to children from
a prior marriage.

  The road to a financially sound marriage begins when you and your spouse-to-be
openly discuss your feelings about money.

  Find a quiet time to talk about money, says Olivia Mellan, a psychotherapist
and author of Overcoming Spending. “Pick a time when you are not under stress,”
she says. “The time to talk about money is not during tax time or when you are
buying the house.”

Write out short- and long-term goals. Be as specific as possible.

Wedding cash

  The typical wedding has 12 people in the bridal party and 200 guests, pushing
the average wedding cost to at least $15,000.

Therefore, consider asking wedding guests to give cash gifts, suggests Cohen &
Goldstein, a New York firm that specializes in matrimonial law. After paying off
bills, any extra funds should go into a money-market fund, where it can earn interest
while long-term goals are studied.

Separate or joint?

  While many couples choose joint checking and savings accounts, more and
more are opting for separate accounts, with each partner taking responsibility
for certain expenses. Others choose to set up one joint account for their mutual
living expenses, into which all income goes. Then the couple sits down a couple
times a month and goes over the bills, making such payments as mortgage or rent,
car, utilities, and joint credit cards. A certain amount may be set aside for
groceries and then an “allowance” check is written for each partner’s separate
account for personal expenses.

  Mellan says that merging money all at once is a big mistake. Most newlyweds
face broad-based intimacy fears, and merging assets right away could add to stress
in this area, she says.

Tax and health advantages

  Another consideration is the impact of marriage on your tax liability.
Calculate how much in taxes you will owe if you file jointly compared with being
married but filing separately. In most cases, filing jointly will result in lower
tax liability.

  Most two-career marriages also have overlapping insurance benefits that
may be costing unnecessary dollars. If your spouse’s health insurance plan is
completely paid for by his or her company and yours is not, you may save money
by switching to your spouse’s plan as a dependent, rather than paying for coverage
for yourself.

Maintain your credit

  Newlyweds also need to compare credit cards to save money on annual fees.
It’s a good idea for each partner to keep at least one card in his or her name
to maintain a personal credit rating.

The prenup

  While marriage-counseling experts and attorneys agree that prenuptial agreements
are not necessary in most marriages, the document could be considered prudent
planning and could offer protection and security.

  A prenup can be extremely important in establishing the parties’ agreement
about ownership of assets, contributions to the marriage, and responsibility for
debts. However, they can be valid in Kentucky only if they are fair when the time
comes to enforce them and if both parties are totally honest in making disclosures
about their assets and liabilities.

  If one of the parties owns a business be-fore the marriage, the agreement
can dictate what will become of it if the marriage ends, whether the other partner
is expected to help in the business, and what compensation the parties can expect
from the business.

  If one spouse is agreeing to give up his or her job and relocate after
the marriage, a prenup can include specifics about what that partner can expect
to receive in the event of a divorce with respect to compensation for lost career
opportunities.

It is also important that the parties have separate attorneys in negotiating the
agreement, and that each seeks competent tax and accounting advice before signing.

  Taking time to address your finances before the wedding will add romance
to your marriage for a long time to come.

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