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For Richer, For Poorer

For Richer, For Poorer - Money Matters For Newlyweds
By Karen Redar

"A few months after we got married," says Carrie, a 28 year old newly wed, "Ken and I fought daily about his wanting a motorcycle. I know he's always wanted one, but I just didn't think it was a practical purchase. I thought we could spend the money on a new deck and get more enjoyment out of it." Short of winning the lottery, there wasn't enough money for both.

Before you tie the knot, talk about money and the effect it will have on your future. First, know what debt each person is bringing into the marriage. Include college loans, credit cards, personal loans, wedding expenses, taxes, child support, etc. when discussing how much you already owe. This conversation may be more difficult than discussing past relationships, but starting an open-communication flow about money is a step toward a happy marriage.

Talk about your priorities, both in the short-term and long-term. It may be tempting to forget about your long-term goal of buying a house when the suede coat you've had your eye on goes on sale. The priority list helps keep you focused. This priority list will likely change as you accomplish goals together and make changes or additions to your new family.

Establish a budget from these priorities and use this as a method for deciding in the future whether or not to make a purchase. Remember to budget for fun! Dining out even once a week eases the stress of newly wedded life. It is important that you both agree to the budget, and while that seems obvious, people who aren't used to a budget may find it constricting. Agree to reevaluate the budget on a monthly or quarterly basis.

At budget time, discuss how you might cover unexpected expenses such as car repairs, medical bills or unemployment. A safety-net account, rainy day fund, or emergency fund can be made part of your budget in the beginning. The amount in the fund will depend on your joint comfort level. Experts recommend stock piling two-four months salary in savings. With the current unemployment rate, you may want a bigger cushion.

Next, you need to decide who will handle your bills. Is one of you better at balancing a checkbook? If you designate one person the "bookkeeper", make sure to include the other in the status of the accounts. Will you pay all of the bills from one joint account? Many couples choose to have one joint account for joint bills and still maintain an individual account. This system allows you to work together and still have money for personal purchases or gifts.

No matter how well planned, there will come a time when the two of you just don't see eye to eye on a purchase. Robert Brokamp, Associate Producer of Personal Finance who co-authored articles with his wife Elizabeth, suggests "developing a guiding principle" to help solve money squabbles. "In the case of flat-out disagreement, go with the option that is more conservative and costs the least," Brokamp says.

Refer to your priorities so one person isn't forced into a purchase they don't want to make. And remember, compromise doesn't have to mean giving in. If you both want to spend the same $500 tax refund, he on stereo equipment and she on bedroom dcor, it may be best to take turns getting what you want.

Over the next year of your newly wedded lives, handling joint finances do not have to be a problem. With clear communication, goals and common priorities, arguments over money will be few and far between.

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