Love, Marriage And Money

By Guest Contributor

Johnette Duff — Attorney At Law

The F-Word. Finances!

Combining love and money may be the biggest stumbling block on the path of true love, creating more rifts in relationships than in-laws, drug and alcohol addiction, or infidelity.

Financial power struggles challenge even the most solid partnerships. Unfortunately, money too often equates control in a relationship. The delicate balance of power betweenpartners is dependent on the successful combination of love and money.

In the majority of relationships today, both members contribute financial resources. Despite the strides women have made toward financial equality on the job, though, men still have greater earning power. In general, with more disposable income, men invest more money and take greater risks than women.

Everyone has opened a bank account, paid the rent or mortgage, kept the telephone and electricity turned on. When you make the decision to share your life with someone, though, such mundane issues suddenly become complicated. Do you keep separate bank accounts or do you put all the money in one account? How do you split monthly expenses? Do you each pay a portion or do you pay bills out of a joint account? Should you be able to sign on your partner’s bank account? Did one of you bring assets to the relationship that the other uses, such as a car or a home, for which expenses should be shared?

Many modern couples keep their finances separate, while others opt to pool all their funds. Making the decision on day-to-day handling of what was formerly “his” and “her”money can be a tough one.

There are benefits to keeping separate property funds separate and maintaining certain assets in one name only. Keeping other monies separate may create logistical problems along with a diminished sense of common goals for the future. Combining funds also gives a couple greater borrowing and investment power.

Determining a financial plan that works might take months; many couples struggle for years before reaching a balance. Defining and discussing financial styles is the first step, setting goals is the second.

Are you both knowledgeable about banking, insurance, investments, credit cards? The routine business of a new life together should include the following:

* Reevaluation of life, health, auto and other insurance coverage

* Change of beneficiary on insurance policies and company pension plans

* Notifying social security of marriage to ensure eligibility for a spouse’s benefit and change of tax withholding

* Assessment of the impact of remarriage on alimony or pension/retirement benefits from a prior marriage

* Consultation with an accountant to learn what impact marital status will have on federal or state income tax obligations

* In a remarriage, be aware that the income of a new spouse may impact eligibility for financial aid of college age children from a prior marriage.

Your goal in tying the fiscal knot is to protect your spousal rights and save money. Begin your research before the wedding and make sure you follow through.

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