Wedding Week: How To Live in Financial Harmony

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Couples planning their upcoming nuptials often talk about many personal values before the big day. But, one of the most important things to discuss may be the value they place on money, especially how to save and how to spend.

Financial management is a touchy subject for most people, but when it comes to the person you will spend the rest of your life with, it is a necessary conversation. As with any major couples decision, such as how to raise children, deciding how to manage money as a twosome can make or break a relationship. And, it’s important to realize that not everyone has, or grows up with, the same value system.

“Couples need to see where they’ve both come from when it comes to money," says Tim Maurer, the director of financial planning at The Financial Consulate in Lutherville, Md. "What did they grow up with? Were their parents wealthy, poor or somewhere in between? Regardless of where they stood in that regard, were their parents extremely stingy, excessively generous or somewhere in between?” Maurer says before tying to understand your partner, make sure you have a good understanding of your own relationship with money. "Personal views of money may have been formed based on conscious and subconscious events or triggers," he says. "I recommend an individual and a spouse or prospective spouse learn about their own background when it comes to things financial."

It is important to allow the conversation to flow candidly and establish a mutual goal. For instance, make sure beneficiary designations are up to date, check each other’s credit score and if either is in the process of being sued protect your assets by delaying combining finances. Throughout the process keep the spirit of teamwork alive. "You need to learn to enjoy money together," says Jay Berger, a certified financial planner in Traverse City, Mich. “Don’t see each other as a conflict but as a compliment.”

According to Maurer, before couples can start planning their financial goals, they also need to know upon what personal values these financial goals will be built. “These values, or as Ben Franklin called them, virtues, are the stuff in life that you want to be about," says Maurer. "Too often goals are not congruent with one or both individuals in a couple.”

In order to achieve the set goals, some experts suggest a 'three bucket rule.' This informal system allows both parties their own account in addition to a pooled money account set aside for matters that pertain to the family as a whole, rather than combining finances completely. "This system creates a happy household,” says Berger. “Each party should have some money that they can do whatever they want with.

In addition to small scale goals, it helps when couples plan for investments or larger purchases like a home. Maurer says, “These goals should be specific, measurable and attainable. I would also add that they should be flexible. The number one goal of every new married couple should be to bind their relationship together and that means that no goal should rise above or cause a deviation from that primary objective.”

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