How to maintain your money and your marriage

Friday - 9/24/2010, 11:17am EDT

Arthur Stein, certfied financial planner, SPC Financial

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Keeping tabs on federal money is a challenge, but managing your personal finances can be difficult, too.

"Money problems can certainly overwhelm a relationship," said Arthur Stein, a certified financial planner with SPC Financial in Rockville, Maryland.

Stein gave Federal News Radio some recommendations for how to stop money problems from hurting your relationship. Here are his tips and selected comments:

Talk it out
Stein said his most important suggestion "is talk, talk, talk about money. Don't keep any secrets. Talk about how you handled money in the past, how your parents handled money, your earliest money memories, and talk about your expectations about the future."

Consider using a professional
"You might need help to get these conversations going and make sure they're successful." Use a financial planner, a marriage counselor or some other type of therapist if needed to talk about money issues.

Swap credit reports
"Each of you should get your credit report. Let the other spouse or partner look at it. Talk about what's in there."

Make a decision about combining finances
"This is especially important for people marrying at a later age who are more established financially."

Make a list of financial goals
"This should be the good stuff: trips, cars, homes, furniture, and things you want to buy in the future that are not part of your regular expenditures." Make a list, estimate the costs, when you want to buy, combine your two lists, and then prioritize by things that you want to spend money on first.

Repeat as necessary
Repeat discussions on a regular basis. Schedule conversations every year or two. "Don't let these things just get swept under the rug. It's hard to speak about money. It's hard to have these discussions. Force yourself to do it."

Issues to Cover

  • Who makes more? - If one spouse is going to be making most of the money, decide if you want that that person to be making most of the financial decisions. Be sure to discuss this in advance, said Stein.

  • Plan for the unexpected - "Get a will, get powers of attorney, make sure you have emergency funds, that you have the proper amount of life and disability, long-term care, auto and home owners insurance, umbrella liability insurance. Those aren't fun to do, but they're very important and I see way too many couples who have not taken care of this." Stein adds it can be okay not to have planned ahead, but only if nothing goes wrong. It can be disastrous if something does.

Federal Couples

If both spouses work for the federal government, said Stein, "it makes things easier because both spouses are financially secure. Working for the federal government is one of the most financially secure positions you can have. It just makes all the decisions easier."

The goal in going through what may seem to be a painful process is to keep the relationship going. "People get married in a romantic haze," said Stein. "I'd like that to last."