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Framed photo of a couple toasting each other

So, you think you’ve found Mr. Right or Mrs. Can’t Live Without? You’re probably thinking about saying “I do” and merging your lives from two to one. This can be one of the most exciting and most stressful times in your life.

Before you pop the question and start dreaming of champagne and a string quartet, you’ll want to have an honest, open discussion about a topic that destroys many marriages. I’m not talking about your in-laws—I’m talking about money.

The majority of Americans spend hundreds of hours planning a wedding—what colors to use, who to invite, what kind of cake to serve—but seldom plan for their marriage. As part of your prenuptial planning, consider the following tips to help ensure marital— and financial—bliss.

What does money mean to you?

The way our parents view money ultimately influences our thoughts and perceptions. Have an open discussion about how each of you views money. Did your future husband or wife’s family talk about money or avoid the topic? Is your future spouse a spender or a saver? Use this list of questions to explore each other’s money values (PDF).

Discuss your goals and values.

The majority of financial plans are based on long-term goals, so it’s important to discuss your values and priorities. For example, does your future spouse want to retire early and travel? Does s/he want to become a stay-at-home parent? Work together to develop a family financial plan that reflects those objectives and put it into practice before you say “I do.”

Consider a prenuptial agreement.

Establishing a prenuptial agreement doesn’t mean you don’t love or trust your soon-to-be spouse. It’s simply an agreement put into place to protect your personal assets before entering into marital bliss. If you have children from a previous relationship, wealth you’d like to preserve, your own business or family-related financial obligations, you may want to consider requiring this agreement to move forward.

Review each other’s credit histories.

You can’t begin to build your credit future until you understand your credit past. Talk about the debt you accumulated and create a plan of action to eliminate it. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies.

Determine where you’ll bank.

If possible, find a bank or credit union that’s close to home and each other’s work, or one that you have some history with. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having separate or joint checking and savings accounts, then decide what’s best for your situation.

Develop spending guidelines.

Limit how much money you can spend without first consulting your partner, especially if you have a joint checking account. Set aside money as each spouse’s weekly or monthly “allowance” – money you can spend freely without compromising your goals.

Be honest and communicate.

Make finances a part of normal conversation, and when it’s hard to stick to the plan, focus on the positive choices you’re making instead of thinking about what you might be giving up. If you talk about money openly and honestly, you’ll avoid one of the biggest sources of marital stress.

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