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BBB TIPS, A COLUMN BY MARJORIE STEPHENS

BBB suggests: Bring finances to forefront in marriage plans

Be honest about problems and set expectations early.

Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 7:12 am

This is a consumer advice column written by the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. It appears Thursdays in Business.

Summer and fall are the most popular seasons for weddings. Along with the wedding preparations, additional planning that should be taking place as well. Couples entering into marriage need to be committed to each other not only emotionally, but also financially.

Granted, finances isn't the most romantic topic, but it is something that needs to be discussed before taking that walk down the aisle.

Finances can become contentious in the marriage if there is no prior discussion about financial expectations from either the bride or groom. By setting a budget and discussing financial situations, couples will be able to save for the future and have money for any emergencies that come up. And it will set them on the road together for a healthier financial outlook. Here are some tips:

•Discuss your financial history. After marriage, any personal debt becomes “our debt.” It is important to sit down early when marriage is being discussed to discover what outstanding obligations exist on both sides. These could include car loans, school loans and credit card debt. Review your credit reports to get a better idea what both of you are bringing to the marriage.

•Build a budget. After you've gotten a grasp on your debt, it's time to build a monthly budget. Look at your monthly bills to create a realistic picture of how you spend. Discuss your long-term goals – such as buying a house or car and having kids. Figure out how much money to set aside each month to reach those goals.

•Learn to budget as a team. In order to avoid confusion, one person should be assigned to pay the bills every month. This doesn't mean that the other person takes a back-seat role in managing the finances. Have a discussion at least every month about your financial progress in order to map your path and get rid of any bad spending habits.

•Plan for emergencies. Many young couples fail to save money to get them through hard times such as health problems and unexpected unemployment. Experts recommend you set aside three to six months of salary in a rainy day fund – ideally an interest-bearing account that can be easily accessed.

•Save for the future. Retirement may seem like a long way off to newlyweds, but setting aside money now means reaping big rewards later. Take advantage of both employers' retirement matching programs – if available – or set up individual retirement accounts. For more tips on saving for retirement, visit www.finra.org.

•Make a vow to be savvy consumers. Many families have had their life savings decimated after becoming a victim to fraud or identity theft. Check out your BBB's website to find trustworthy businesses, get educated on the red flags of fraud and learn how to protect your identity.

Marjorie Stephens is the communications director for the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. Before you make a purchase, go to the BBB website at www.neindiana.bbb.orgor call 423-4433 or toll-free 1-800-552-4631 to check out a business.