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Before you say 'I do,' a talk about financial planning is in order Money problems cause many couples marital headaches.


BOULDER, Colo. -- Researchers at Cornell University Medical Center have confirmed something you already know: Nearly 40 percent of newlyweds fight about -- you guessed it -- money. It's the single most explosive issue in all marriages, and even the affluent aren't immune. Financial planners and marriage counselors say that what usually triggers a fight is lack of communication. Couples rarely sit down before they are married and talk about money.

But a full and frank discussion about finances early on will alleviate a lot of tension and help avoid conflicts.

Frances Smith, director of public affairs for the American Financial Services Association in Washington, D.C., recommends taking a hard look not only at your money but at your plans for the future and their financial implications. Relocating to another city, making a career change, buying a home or getting an advanced degree will all have an impact on your financial well-being, and they need to be talked over carefully.

"Reaching those goals may require some changes in how you spend money," Ms. Smith said. "It may sound easy to adjust a lifestyle so that you're spending less, but most people develop spending habits that require discipline to change."

First, get your financial house in order, Ms. Smith advises in the AFSA's Consumer Finance Bulletin. Check out health, life and auto insurance policies -- both those at work and those carried individually. Name and marital status need to be changed, as do the name of the beneficiary. With health insurance, review the coverage.

Finally, decide who's going to handle the money. Ms. Smith says it's usually a good idea to divide the responsibilities for balancing the checkbook, depositing checks, paying bills and making investment decisions. You both should have some control over how it is spent. It's also a way to keep you on the straight and narrow.

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