02/10/2014

By Sara Gilbert, GreenPath manager for Colorado and Wyoming

Are you in a serious relationship? Does Valentine’s Day have you considering marriage? If that is the case, now is the time to have an intimate money conversation with your beloved.

If you’re planning a wedding or long-term relationship with a special person, don’t forget to get real with each other about finances. In a study conducted a few years ago by Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University, couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week or more, were 30 percent more likely to get divorced, than couples who reported disagreeing about finances only a few times a month or less.

While disagreements about money are inevitable for couples headed to the altar, make sure you have a plan for your money that both of you can agree on.

Before the wedding, share information such as income, debts owed, credit report status, and money invested and saved.

What are your financial goals? Do you have similar desires? Is one or both of you in debt? Do you have a plan to get out of debt?

Have an honest discussion about how much you each owe and share your credit reports and credit scores. You can get a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com and a free credit score at www.creditkarma.com. Having a plan for your marital finances will be essential to the level of satisfaction you can expect from your marriage.

Set some realistic money goals together. Do you want to buy a house, have children, pay off some debt, go on vacation or start an emergency fund?

Joint goals can go a long way toward solidifying your marriage vows.

Then, create a budget. Plan for your income and expenses every month. Include in your budget both your regular expenses and the goals you plan to work toward.

Newlyweds don’t have to immediately merge your financial lives, but you should decide who will pay which bills and how you will reach mutual goals. It doesn’t matter so much what you decide, just that you communicate and agree on the plan.

Keep some money separate so you each have money that is yours alone to decide how to spend. It’s also a good idea to set a limit on the amount you might spend without seeking the other’s guidance.

If one of you is better at or more interested in paying the monthly bills, you can pick a money manager if you decide to merge your finances.

Finally, be sure to set monthly planning time aside to go over your finances and check in with each other. Make your finances — other than the decided upon free spending amounts — a “no secret” zone in your relationship.

Coming alongside each other in marriage will also mean coming alongside each other financially. If you have concerns about how to achieve your goals, make a budget or pay off some debt, certified counselors are available at GreenPath to conduct a free session to help you make a plan for getting the finances right in your relationship.