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6 tips for merging finances as newlyweds

Wedding bells might be ringing, but the jingle of combining your funds into one account might not sound nearly as pleasant. Couples face a lot of money issues when they get together.

Lashonda Rogers of Atlanta has been married for seven years. But back when she tied the knot with her husband, merging finances proved difficult in the beginning of their marriage.

"I didn't know how much he liked golf until we combined our finances," Rogers says. "I was critical about his expenditures, and he was critical about mine."

Like what the Rogerses experienced initially, there are risks associated with finances during a couple's lifetime after the honeymoon is over.

Some of the most common financial problems new couples encounter include overspending and building up a load of debt, and being financially separated and not having a plan, says Charles Schmitz, who, with his wife, has studied and written about marriage.

Here are six tips Bankrate compiled from interviews with Schmitz and Paula Levy, a licensed marriage therapist in Westport, Conn., to help young couples manage their merged finances after walking down the aisle.

Put money on the agenda

"Money is a big issue among couples" says Levy. But not too many recognize it. For newlyweds, the first step is to acknowledge the importance of the money issue and to bring it on the table.

It also helps to begin your financial management by setting up financial goals for one year, five years and 10 years at the initial phase of the marriage, said Schmitz in an email interview.

Rein in the purchases and the debt

According to Schmitz, a large amount of debt is the No.1 cause of stress in a marriage. Much of this debt can start to accrue early on in a marriage when a couple is merging finances but still spending a lot.

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Newlyweds who think they're compatible often find their finances are not. Pulling off a good marriage of money styles can be tricky.

Experts say new couples often begin their lives together without a financial plan and then overspend and build up a mountain of debt. It's common for the newly married to want everything -- cars, home, the perfect furniture -- and then wind up with debt, the No. 1 cause of stress in a marriage. Spouses need to set spending limits and take a night to "sleep on it" before any big purchase.

It's good for couples to set up a joint account for covering bills related to the house, cars and child care. Also very important is communicating about finances on a regular basis, maybe in a monthly money talk.

And, new spouses will quickly find they have to be willing to compromise. If one wants to go on a vacation and the other says it's too expensive, some sort of middle ground will have to be found.

"Newly married couples have a tendency to purchase things beyond their economic capacity. They want everything immediately," said Schmitz. "They get themselves deep in debt before they are ready to handle responsibility."

Mark Pedersen and Shasha Luo got married early in July. And as much as Pedersen wanted to surprise his new wife with a car, he knew he couldn't because of the $24,000 student loan he owes. Pedersen says if he does decide to get her a car, "It won't be brand-new."

So how do you handle the urge to want things? Schmitz suggested sleeping on it. "You would be surprised at the number of purchases you don't make if you sleep on it."

He also said young couples should set a limit for how much they can spend on a purchase.

Nonetheless, spouses can still have some "indulgence" money, Levy says. "Women tend to spend more on clothing while men tend to spend more on electronics. You don't want to ask your wife for a new Apple product," she says. Work on a budget so that you can each have an outlet for spending. Otherwise, it can lead to more tension in the relationship.


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