Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Marriage Money: A Guide for after the Honeymoon

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Marriage Money: A Guide for after the Honeymoon

Article excerpt

Sandy and Tom got married last summer in a beautiful garden ceremony that set them back more than $7,000. They paid for the wedding themselves, so they spent considerable time examining and whittling down expenditures. They were proud to report that the wedding went off without a hitch _ and on budget.

Things didn't go as smoothly when the couple returned to their jobs, bills and debts following the honeymoon. Sandy wanted to pay off their loans immediately. Tom was willing to pay more than required minimums, but not so much that it would hamper their lifestyle.

Although generally happy together, they argued about bills, credit balances and continuing spending until they finally sought financial counseling. And Sandy and Tom, who asked that their full names not be used, are not unusual.

"Few couples talk about money before the marriage," said Robin Leonard, author of "Money Troubles: Legal Strategies to Cope with Your Debts."

"Often _ even if the couple has been living together _ they don't even know if the other person has got credit card bills or a huge tax debt. Many people keep all this private until after the wedding."

Partly as a result, economic friction is common among newlyweds, experts say. Indeed, past surveys have found that more than half of divorced couples cited money problems as a significant factor in the split.

The good news is that it's never too late to get your joint economic life together, said Kathleen Stepp, a Kansas City-based financial planner who heads Citibank MasterCard and Visa's Money Matters for Newlyweds education program.

And now, as roughly 500,000 summer newlyweds settle into their married lives, is a good time to start.

How do you do it? The keys are communication and compromise, said Stepp and others. Newlyweds need to sit down and open up their checkbooks, tax returns, billing statements and brokerage accounts to discuss what they have and what they want to achieve. Here are a few tips on how to start. Discuss goals. Many couples find their biggest money troubles come from having conflicting goals. For example, one wants a retirement account while the other wants a boat.

"Disagreements about money are really disagreements about priorities because money is finite," said Stepp. You'll need to find common ground, which may not be as tough as it sounds.

In Sandy and Tom's case, it turned out their goals were similar _ they just differed on when they expected to attain them. Sandy wanted a house in three years. Tom expected to buy in 10 years. They're now trying to save enough for a down payment within five to seven years. Budget. Open up your respective checkbooks and start tallying how much money you have coming in and where it's going out. Then figure out where you can economize. …

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