How creating a budget can money-proof your marriage


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I recently had a young couple come to see me wanting to sort out their finances out before getting married, their aim, to be debt free before their wedding day.

However, what we needed to do was resolve a few maxed out credit cards, have a hard conversation about stopping spending and going back to their basic financial expenses.

On preparing a money plan (or budget) using their joint income we knew exactly what money was available to pay out their combined credit card debt over the next few months.

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Once that was achieved, saving for a house deposit could commence!

I admired this couple for wanting to start their commitment to each, financially on the same page and working together.

Family values in relation to money are very important for both parties to understand.

After all, family is often where newlyweds turn during times of conflict.

Partner A is likely to have their concerns about partner B's spending confirmed if their family narrative has always been saved much and spent little, so independent advice can help.

Tips to money-proof your marriage:

- Ask the big - and little - questions to find out if you have the same money values. Did you save money as a child? Did you seek financial advice from your parents? How much should a wedding cost? Will you merge finances after you marry? How much is ok to spend without checking with your partner?

- Discuss different ways of managing money. Moneysmart has a great quiz to help you with this.

- Create a budget together. Make sure you set short-, medium-, and long-term financial goals.

- Have a separate account for bills and make fortnightly deposits to cover annual bills. Pay all bills using Bpay and direct debit.

- Celebrate financial achievements as a couple.

- Take it in turns paying bills and reviewing bank accounts or, better yet, do it together. Don't let this responsibility fall to one partner.

- Put any loans or debt in both names, making both parties responsible for the debt.

- Each prepare a new will on getting married, and make sure it is updated regularly, especially following major life events such as the birth of children or the purchase of real estate.

- Be open and honest about your spending, saving and financial goals. Financial secrets can be devastating to a relationship, so it's important to share when you are struggling.

If you're in an established relationship and you're struggling to keep your head above water financially, it may be time to seek help from a financial counsellor. This is someone who can assist you in resolving your financial battles, from counselling on spending and behaviour to assist you with preparing a budget and even speaking to your creditors if required.

One of the biggest issues I see as a financial counsellor is joint liability for debts after a relationship breakdown.

One spouse has agreed to guarantee the other's personal or business loans, assuming their obligation to the joint debt would be severed with the end of the relationship, but that is rarely the case.

Independent advice is essential for any person agreeing to act as guarantor or co-borrower.

Free, independent financial counselling is available through National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

RELATED: How to tell a family member their spending is out control

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Graham Smith is chairperson of Financial Counsellors Association of NSW (FCAN).