Are you soon to be a bride or groom?

Wedding industry statistics show that many couples are about to take that stroll down the aisle, with October, September and June reigning respectively as the most popular marrying months.

With the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. now at $33,000 or higher depending on location, according to The Knot, it’s understandable for couples to focus (or even obsess) on costs for rings, a wedding cake, flowers, photos, videography, and, of course, the dress.

Among a wedding’s financial challenges is determining whether the couple will pay for the event themselves or have some help from parents or other benefactors.

There’s no right or wrong choice — only what works best for all involved.

Often overlooked among the joyful chaos of wedding planning, however, is preparing for financial decisions that matter, or arise, after the happy couple says “I do.”

Merging finances can be stressful, but reaching understanding — and agreement — concerning money is a best first step toward a happy, healthy marriage.

Money and financial disagreements consistently rank among the top five reasons for divorce and marital strife, studies show, right up there with infidelity and lack of communication.

Sharing financial goals and plans is critical to achieving financial security and peace of mind, especially over the long term.

Although many couples believe they are highly skilled in communicating with each other, that’s not always the case when it comes to finances.

The 2018 Couples & Money Study by Fidelity Investments reveals a number of disconnects among couples, including varying approaches to saving money and how best to deal with debt.

So, while you are planning your nuptials, and definitely before you head for your honeymoon, here are some financial matters to consider.

For love or money

Start the conversation: This first step is absolutely critical. Define your dreams, discuss priorities and set the table.

Each of you should list questions or concerns. For example, one of you might be a saver and the other a spender.

Some financial advisers suggest couples write a mission statement together to define how they would like to manage their wealth over time.

Discuss the “D” word ... debt: How much debt, if any, will each of you bring to your marriage? It’s vital for couples to address debt and work together on how to tackle it.

You might choose to combine forces — and finances — to pay it off, or for each spouse to cover his or her obligations.

Regardless, it’s important to be supportive of each other. Keep in mind that if you want to make a large purchase together, your spouse-to-be’s credit score could affect your ability to obtain a loan as a married couple.

Consider your goals: How long do each of you plan to work? What type of lifestyle appeals to you? Do you wish to travel? Will you fund your children’s education? Do you have philanthropic intentions? What do you hope to achieve for retirement?

Listen to each other carefully and pay attention to details. Establishing mutual goals will make your planning smoother, especially if the economy experiences a downturn and you need to adjust.

Consider opening a savings account for short‐term goals immediately and then meet with a financial advisor to plan for the longer term.

Open a joint checking account: This common, simple tool not only can streamline your household budget, it can help identify potential marital disputes, allowing you to head them off before they occur.

Before opening the joint account, determine together how you will use it. For example, will it be for everything, or only for paying bills? Will you maintain separate accounts for discretionary spending or your individual day‐to‐day expenses? And who will be in charge of balancing the checkbook and tracking the account?

It’s the details that matter, and having an upfront conversation can help avoid arguments.

Get to know your financial partner: Your financial institution may have many ways to help you that you might not be aware of, from competitive rates on accounts and credit cards, loan consolidation and mortgage programs, financial planning and investment services.

Getting to know your financial partner is a good way to become a more informed financial services consumer and maximize your financial potential.

To happily ever after

Candid, transparent communication is critical to any successful partnership, marriage included.

Committing time to discussing money and finances before you wed can help ensure your and your spouse-to-be’s goals are aligned, and that your choices support those mutual goals.

Then, when your Big Day arrives, your transition from single to married can be as smooth and simple as that first kiss.

Kelly Mould is vice president wealth fiduciary adviser at Johnson Financial Group.

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