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Marriage & Money

It’s spring, when thoughts turn to love and marriage. But not necessarily to money management, although $60 billion will be spent on about 2.5 million weddings.

This year’s crop of engaged couples might want to put financial planning, ranging from prenuptial agreements to checking accounts to babies, on their to-do list in advance of the ceremony.

The road to a financially sound marriage begins when you and your spouse-to-be openly discuss individual feelings about money. Too often, couples wait until there’s a problem and then emotions take over and cloud the real issues.

Handling money conflicts

All the statistics and surveys say that money generally is the number-one cause for the breakup of a marriage. It’s not just having enough money, but the conflicts that arise around money that aren’t resolved.

Find a quiet time to talk about money, says Olivia Mellan, author of Overcoming Spending. Write out short- and long-term goals, being as specific as possible, she urges. Find out what’s important about money to each of you. If one is basically a spender and the other a saver, the couple needs to find common ground.

Will there be one pot of money? Yours and mine? Some yours, some mine, some ours? 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.

And a tax reminder for newlyweds: a taxpayer who changes his or her last name or address must notify applicable federal and state agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet. This is especially important in claiming personal exemptions or the earned income credit on tax returns.

Single tax strategies

If marriage is still far from your mind, now is an ideal time to begin thinking about your financial future as a single person.

Take advantage of your company’s 401(k) plan, if offered, or open a tax-deferred individual retirement account. Even if your contribution is small, the combination of compounding and tax deferral will make the money grow into a tidy sum over the long haul.

Never plan to get married or are single again? Disability and life insurance are a priority, especially if you have dependent children. As you age, the chances of suffering a debilitating illness increases significantly, risking loss of income while running up major medical expenses.


Living together? You need to follow up your emotional commitment with a legal one.

Write out a legal contract that spells out interests of each partner in the couple’s property and financial affairs, obtain power of attorney and living wills for medical emergencies, and trusts or wills to control the legal passing-on of property.


Thinking of having a child soon after getting married? Watch your wallet.

A U.S. government agency estimates that an average couple will spend about $10,000 a year on food, clothing, and shelter per child–$170,000 to age 17, figured in today’s dollars. Add in private schools and after-school activities, and the figure rises.

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