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.
Here's a cold shower, newlyweds: Money is one of the top reasons for divorce.
At least, that's how Google sees it. Search for "reasons for divorce" and "money" and you get more than 24,000 results. Do the same at Yahoo! and you'll get almost 28,000 results. Money, apparently, can destroy a marriage.
I know at least one former couple for whom that's true. My hope is for you to not be among the casualties. Therefore, I present this series of tips from Rob Ketterer, a well-off 28-year-old consultant who, while still in his early 20s, bought a home with $500. Rob was married to his bride, Irene, last Saturday.
"Have the talk"
Why should you listen to Rob? Because he's savvier than most when it comes to managing money. And he's probably the most mature 28-year-old I've ever known. His bulging portfolio includes Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) , Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) , and General Electric (NYSE: GE ) via the Templeton Growth fund.
For newlyweds, Rob's advice is simple: have "the talk." (Or, "da tawk," if you're like my New York relatives.) Says Rob:
I feel it is extremely important for newlyweds or those who are going to be married to sit down and talk to each other about finances and pull each other's credit report. This is not the most comfortable conversation or fun, but these hard topics need to be addressed before taking that long walk down that aisle.
No kidding. If money is a top reason for divorce, then failing to talk about it before the Big Day is like inviting Fat Albert to a family barbeque. You just know someone is going to leave unsatisfied.
7 tips from the lips of a newlywed Fool
And after you've exchanged rings? That's when the work begins, says Rob. Here are his seven tips for living in financial bliss.
1. Have a plan to be debt-free; save for a rainy day. Rob advises establishing a $1,000 emergency fund, even if you're currently in debt. "That way," he says, "while you and your fiancee are working [your way] out of debt, you don't have to go into debt to fund those small emergencies."
2. Have common goals. Rob figures that couples that want the same things rarely fight. I agree. My wife and I are united in conquering debt and we now pay bills together.
3. Use an unbiased financial adviser. As a financial DIY'er, I'm not sure I agree that newlyweds need outside help. But I like that's he's for using an unbiased source. As Rob puts it, "a family friend of the soon-to-be bride or groom may lean more towards what is in the best interest of the party whom they are most familiar with." Too true.
4. Get the most from your benefits. Employers won't give you much time to make decisions when it comes to insuring, and saving for, two estates. Get to them early, Rob advises. "You will want to start at least 30 days before you get married so you can gather the proper information and forms and have time to compare them with one another."
5. Create a living will and trust. "If [you] pass away without a will, the estate will fall to the hands of the government and they will decide ... where the remainder of your estate is disseminated. Who else to better determine how your life's earnings be distributed?" Amen, brother.
6. Purchase life insurance. I don't need to ask Rob to explain this, right? Click here when you're ready to go shopping for a policy.
7. Review! Review! Review! Take the time to check all of your paperwork, Rob says. "My brother told me a story about a guy who passed away suddenly. He had not reviewed his life insurance policy of several thousand dollars, which was paid to an ex-girlfriend from years ago instead of to his wife and child." I think my wife would kill me again if I were to let that happen.
Follow the money
Love may be blind, but your spouse isn't. Treat your honey with the respect he or she deserves by talking about money before the "D" word becomes an everyday utterance. You'll be richer, both literally and spiritually, for the effort.
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Fool contributor Tim Beyers writes weekly about personal finance and investing basics. Have a Foolish money tip? Tell him. Tim owned shares of Oracle at the time of publication. Tim's portfolio holdings can be found at his Fool profile. His thoughts on personal finance, Foolishness, and investing in general may be found in his blog. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy was hitched to the Fool's trading guidelines years ago. Nine newsletters later, the happy couple is still living in bliss.