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Have a premarital money talk

Truly, madly, deeply in love and headed for the bonds of matrimony? Take a deep breath. Look into your beloved's eyes and say, "I owe."

Consumer experts recommend couples have a "You show me yours and I'll show you mine" money session well before they take that fateful trip down the aisle. From student loans to car payments to credit card bills, it's best to come clean on every "I owe" before saying "I do."

Get everything out in the open: What you make, what you owe, what you own, any savings and investments you may have. It's also a good idea to swap credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

You can even thank a new federal law for your first wedding gift: you'll now be entitled to one free credit report from each of these credit reporting agencies per year. Consumers in western states became eligible to request their free annual credit report Dec. 1, but if you live on the East coast you'll have to wait until Sept. 1, 2005. To find out when you become eligible to receive a free credit report, check out Bankrate's map.

While one spouse's premarriage debt or credit dings won't affect another's credit rating, it can hamper joint financial goals. Once married, any joint credit accounts -- including those for auto loans, credit cards and mortgages -- will show up on both spouses' credit reports.

After assessing current debts, be sure to discuss individual and joint financial priorities and goals.

Talk about what works for you and why. Discuss how financial decisions will be handled as a couple. How will household expenses be divided? Will you agree to consult each other before making purchases?

Money and debt are touchy subjects. Everyone has a different comfort level. These questions can help guide your money chat.

Or, take our quiz to find out whether you and your beloved make "cents" together.

You both need to know what your wedding will cost. The fiscal rule of thumb is this: Don't spend more on nuptials and a honeymoon than you can repay in 24 months. OK, three years. Tops. You don't want it to overlap with buying a home and the cost of children.

Above all, talk to each other openly and candidly

NEXT: Budget for your wedding
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