When couples marry, they often divide household responsibilities. One person may be happy to leave the home repairs to his or her spouse. The other may be grateful to give up having to deal with the gardening and landscaping.
A Complete Picture of Your Finances Is Essential
However, you should never relinquish control of your finances. This includes the household budget as well as investments, savings, loans, credit cards and retirement accounts. Even if your spouse is better at handling money than you are, it's still essential to have a complete and accurate picture of your financial situation.
People who relinquish control of all money matters to their spouse can find themselves at a serious disadvantage if they divorce or their spouse dies. As one financial planner and psychologist says, "Taking an extreme position around money management in a relationship -- such as taking all of the responsibility or none of it -- is a recipe for relational and financial disaster."
Regular Communication Is Key
Some couples divide up the financial responsibilities, with one handling day-to-day household expenses and the other handling long-term savings and investments. No matter how you divide these responsibilities, it's essential to communicate regularly with each other so that both of you know where you stand on assets and debts. You may choose to communicate informally on a regular basis or set up a money "date night" once a month where you review everything together. Otherwise, you each have only a partial view of your financial situation.
It's imperative for couples to discuss their financial goals and views about saving and spending money before they marry, even if you don't get a prenuptial agreement (which you should). Both partners should be completely honest about the assets and debts that they're bringing into the marriage. Financial problems and differing views about how to handle money are common causes of marital break-ups.
Too many people find themselves in the midst of divorce without knowing what assets they're entitled to or what debts they may be responsible for. Spouses have been known to hide money, max out credit cards and empty out bank accounts in anticipation of divorce. Staying on top of your financial situation can save you the stress and expense of determining how much money you have if you divorce. It's also a smart and empowering thing to do if you and your spouse live happily ever after.
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