Although couples disagree about finances more than any other issue, they tend to avoid conversations about how much they save, spend and accrue in debt.
"It's never too early to discuss and establish your financial goals as a couple," emphasized Miller. Before couples walk down the aisle this spring and summer, he recommends they:
1) Share credit reports. Credit history is critical to everything from securing a mortgage to getting the best car insurance rate. Under the newly passed Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, credit reports are free to every consumer on an annual basis. "If your partner has nothing to hide, sharing this information should not be a problem," said Miller. If there is a problem with the report, take appropriate steps to raise the credit score. This can range from paying forgotten overdue bills and current bills on time to contacting lenders to change a poor rating once restitution is made or payments are caught up.
2) Come clean about debt. "Although you don't assume the debt of your spouse when you get married, it can affect your plans as a couple," emphasized Miller. If one person has a lot of credit card, school loan or other debt, he or she needs to consolidate and make a concerted effort to pay it off. Otherwise, it may be a source of contention.
3) Decide how to handle household expenses. Whether paying monthly rent, mortgage or utilities, couples differ on how they handle bill paying. "One option is to set up a joint account and contribute the agreed-upon amount for each individual. Another is to each pay
your own expenses and then share joint expenses. Whatever you decide, it's best to talk about it in advance." Effective and direct communication is critical.
4) Establish an overall spending plan. One fiancée buys on impulse, but the other is a comparison shopper always searching for a bargain. Two different approaches to spending can be a recipe for disaster. "Either way, couples should compromise, agree on a budget and stick to it, " stressed Miller.
5) Give the spouse-to-be credit. "It's always a good idea to maintain a credit card in your own name, in addition to joint cards, to ensure you maintain an active credit history as an individual," said Miller.
6) Say "I do" to savings. "Couples agree they need to spend less and save more for the future, whether it's to buy a house, start a family or retire, but cannot decide how," explained Miller. "To find the best way to create and manage your savings plan, consult a financial professional."
"Issues around money may not always be easy to talk about," stressed Miller. "But letting things go unsaid opens the door to misunderstandings that could destroy your marriage."