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Marriage: The Ultimate Merger

To celebrate the wedding season, the Fool has a gift for you: our advice on how to mix love and money into a successful marriage. Take a look at all of our marriage and money articles.

Engagement can be the roughest period of a couple's life together. There's all the stress of planning a wedding that meets everyone's expectations (no matter how unrealistic), along with the collision of visions over kids and religion and countless other soon-to-be-shared facets of life ... not to mention the search for a place to live and, of course, the dreaded talk about merging finances. It's enough to make you want to call the whole thing off.

Now, I won't offer advice on planning your wedding -- although fellow Foolish writer Dayana Yochim has already shared her thoughts on how to save on your nuptials. I can, however, offer up some ideas for getting through the financial negotiations without too much strife. I did it when I got married way back in 1998, and although my wife and I still have somewhat different ideas about money, we have managed to keep things running pretty smoothly for almost nine years.

So without further ado, some ideas on Having That Talk:

  • Don't skip it! Yep, this is No. 1: If you and your betrothed haven't already talked about merging financial lives, you need to do it. You probably both have debts and incomes. One or both of you may own property or have an investment portfolio. All of those things are going to become joint property soon unless you explicitly negotiate otherwise, and it's incredibly important to share expectations beforehand, to avoid huge relationship-threatening misunderstandings later. Find a low-stress time to do it, and have any paperwork you want to share ready and at hand.

  • Share concerns without being confrontational. If your beloved is a little too free with the credit cards for your liking, or has a track record of making "investments" like buying Dendreon (Nasdaq: DNDN  ) at $22 or putting long-term savings into a bond fund, then you need to raise these issues and work through them. But don't attack. Instead, share your concerns and make an effort to hear your partner's. There's almost always a way to compromise that gets you most of what you need. Start by identifying -- out loud -- what you each must have, and try to be willing to give way on the points that aren't absolutely essential.

  • Preserving a little independence can help a lot. Back before I got married, it seemed very important to me to preserve some financial independence. I wanted to be able to spend money on myself without having to negotiate every single purchase. We ended up establishing three bank accounts: a joint account, into which most of our income was deposited, and a personal account for each of us. Every month, we each draw an agreed amount into our individual accounts. That money is ours to spend or save as we each like -- an "allowance" of sorts. Household expenses and joint savings come out of the joint account and are run according to an agreed-on budget.

Speaking of budgeting, my wife and I are big fans of Intuit's (Nasdaq: INTU  ) Quicken personal-finance software. She's the power user in the family, but I really like the reports and tracking capabilities that let us both see exactly what's going on with our money. If you don't already have Quicken, consider getting it.

  • Get Foolish together. You knew I was going to say this, didn't you? If your intended has any interest in personal finance at all, encourage him or her to spend a little time getting educated here at The Motley Fool. Even an hour or two spent reading through our Fool's School can greatly help your soon-to-be-spouse participate knowledgeably in discussions about retirement planning, credit, investment strategies, and your overall financial goals. And once you both get interested in investing, you can look forward to many decades of breakfast-table talk on the pros and cons of stocks like Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) . What could possibly be better?

Get your joint financial life started off right by grabbing your sweetie and checking out theMotley Fool Green Light newsletter service together. Fools Dayana Yochim and Shannon Zimmerman offer up sound personal-finance advice and hundreds of dollars of money-saving tips every month. Their best ideas are yours free for 30 days.

Fool contributor John Rosevear doesn't own any of the stocks mentioned above. Starbucks is a Stock Advisor pick. Coca-Cola is an Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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John Rosevear
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John Rosevear is the senior auto specialist for Fool.com. John has been writing about the auto business and investing for over 20 years, and for The Motley Fool since 2007.

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10/31/2014 1:54 PM
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