Often the biggest difference between living together and getting married lies in sharing the finances. Making decisions about combining and spending the money you make can be more fraught with emotion than the decision to tie the knot! It's no secret that it's easier to decide how to save money than to figure out how what you have should be spent. Here's some advice culled from Strong Investments, Inc. about how to figure it all out.

What are your financial personalities?
Saver? Spender? Opposites attract, but can you live with them?

How will you divide money-management responsibilities?
Who will pay the bill?

What financial loose ends are you bringing to the marriage?
If you have student loans, car loans, debts and/or credit-card balances due, you need to let him know -- and find out what his are, before you tie the knot.

What are your short and long-term financial goals?
Write down your dreams and assign a date to what you're shooting for.
Set priorities and stay focused on your goals.
Start investing right away by paying yourself first each month.
Even $50 month can turn into a fortune in 20 years.

How much debt can you live with?
Figure it out and do something about it.
Discuss big-ticket items before you go out to shop for them.

Have you created a budget you both can stick to?
What are you going to do with discretionary funds?
Split them into yours, mine, and ours, or pool everything into a joint account?
Try a soft-ware program to help track your accounts.

What tradeoffs are you willing to make to achieve your goals?
Can you shave any excess off of groceries, entertainment, or travel to boost savings for a new home? Or rely on a used car instead of getting a new one?

How much risk are you comfortable with?
If you have separate portfolios, you can build them according to separate financial personalities, but do consider an investment counselor.

Have you discussed the importance of having a separate credit identity?
Adding your name to your spouse's account can make you liable for his existing debt. Best to establish your own credit and get a separate card in your own name.

Have you made plans to adjust your income tax withholdings, beneficiaries, and wills?
Don't forget the marriage penalty, which makes for higher joint taxes than you had when you were single. Adjust your payroll withholding accordingly and re-evaluate your employee-benefit options, especially your health insurance coverage. Update the beneficiaries on your insurance and retirement funds, and investigate combining your car insurance with your homeowner's coverage.
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