By Kurt Smith
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It’s wedding season, and many couples are planning their walk down the aisle. So much planning goes into choosing the right venue, making a guest list, picking out the dress and planning the honeymoon. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and the bliss of it all.
Before you do further planning for your “I do’s,” though, make sure you and your future spouse have the money talk. Studies have shown that disagreements over money are a prime contributor to divorce for many couples. Talking about your finances before marriage can help prevent big money issues and arguments down the road.
Like anything in marriage, you and your future spouse are bound to have different opinions on money. In fact, money is one of the most common topics for couples to fight about. How much you should spend on certain items, whether to put money aside for savings each month and even whether to use credit or debit to pay for purchases can create discord in the relationship.
A common source of conflict I see regularly in marriage counseling are these three areas of money management: debt, saving and spending. Getting on the same page early on can help prevent these destructive money fights later.
Talk about debt
Before the wedding day, it’s essential that both partners be honest about any debt they are bringing into the marriage. This can include credit cards, student loans, a mortgage and car payments. If one partner has debt, the other partner will inevitably share in paying it down once they’re married. Sharing this information upfront gives you the opportunity to work together as a team to devise a plan for paying it off.
Stick to a budget
It’s a good idea to discuss how much income each of you makes on a regular basis. Once you have your income laid out, it will be easier to set and stick to a budget. You can set up a basic budget, including both incomes as well as your monthly expenses such as rent or mortgage, car payments, groceries, gas and debt payments. Talk about how much you will allocate to extra spending such as clothes, entertainment and eating out, as well as how much you’ll want to put into a retirement or savings account each month.
» MORE: How to build a budget
Cash or credit?
Make sure to discuss how each of you spends money. One of you may solely use credit cards and pay them off every month, while the other uses a cash envelope system. Talk about this and get on a system that both of you are comfortable using.
The most important goal in having the money talk is for the two of you get on the same page. Be transparent in your finances and help set that tone for your marriage. Having the money talk is not the most fun or the most romantic thing you’ll do before the nuptials, but it needs to be done. Carve out some time to go over all the details. Talking about it now will help lead you to happily ever after later. When your marriage lasts a lifetime, you’ll be really glad you did.
This article also appears on Nasdaq.