You made it through the wedding planning and budgeting process, and started your life as a married couple. But have you decided as a couple how will you handle your finances? (Marriage can be like doubling an income, as long as you avoid doubling these expenses. Check out Marriage: For Richer Or Poorer?)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Handled improperly, marriage and unaddressed money issues can wreak havoc on a relationship. In 2009, The New York Times reported the findings of a Utah State University study which indicated that "couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were over 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month."

The best way to avoid financial disagreements with your new spouse is to address challenges openly, have a shared plan of action, and to understand how credit and the financial system works. Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education for Experian and Wedding Planning Expert Kimberly Schlegel Whitman offer their expert advice for the top five money matters facing recession-era newlyweds.

1. Fight the Newlywed Homeowner Fantasy
Though you're starting a new life as a married couple, one's financial past does not go away so easily. Particularly if one spouse owns real estate that has lost significant value in the housing downturn, it's important to be realistic and plan for your new financial life together, with a broad vision on the long-term. If you're swept away by the fantasy that a newly married couple should purchase a home together to begin a new life, it's time for a reality check. Schlegel advises couples that own a home they can't sell to consider staying in the existing home until the market improves. If you're itching to buy housing right after marriage, consider renting as a temporary option to build savings and a solid financial foundation. Agree as a couple how long you will stay there, and how you will start saving and building your assets for home buying in the future. "The most important thing is to protect your credit history, so that when you are positioned to be able to buy a new home together, you can get approved, and at the best interest rate," says Schlegel.

2. Save for Worst-Case Scenarios
While the economy is making a slow recovery, job security is still wavering in many industries. Though double income may leave you feeling like money is pouring in, Schlegel advises married couples to have savings amounting to at least six months (preferably nine) of your total monthly income as a couple, in the event that one spouse loses a job, or some other disaster strikes. Choose an interest-bearing savings account together, and establish an automatic savings plan (ASP), so that a portion of each spouse's paycheck is deposited to the account regularly. Destroy the ATM card so there is no temptation to dip into the funds.

3. My Debt, Your Debt
While joining finances can be a "rite of married passage" for couples, Sweet urges newlyweds to remember that as a married couple, you are both responsible for debt incurred on a joint account. If you decide to consolidate finances, joint accounts will be reported on each of your individual credit reports, and both spouses are financially responsible for any debt incurred. Likewise, a missed payment will negatively impact both of your credit scores and histories. If you live in a "joint property state," which are predominantly located in the Western part of the United States, Sweet reminds that both spouses are held liable for debt, even if your name is not on the account.

4. Maintain Your Individuality
While financial planning should be a joint activity after marriage, Sweet also recommends keeping at least one individual account in each spouse's name open. This approach will ensure that each individual has easy access to credit in case of an emergency. If you do find yourself facing divorce one day, having an established account in your name will also help you rebuild your individual credit history. (Does signing a prenuptial agreement put your marriage on shaky ground, or is it just smart planning? See Marriage, Divorce And The Dotted Line.)

5. Understand Credit as a Married Couple
In today's tightened lending environment, credit is more important than ever. Sweet reminds that while each spouse will always have an individual credit history, even after marriage. Lenders will often consider both of your financial standings when you apply for credit jointly, especially for major purchases like a car or home. Missing just one payment on one of your individual accounts, could impact your future ability to open joint accounts.

The Bottom Line
Money and marriage can be a challenging and stressful issue for many. For recession-era newlyweds, the unique circumstances presented in an economic downturn make sound financial planning as spouses even more critical. Use these five steps as a guide to pave the way for your new job as joint money-managers, and ensure that you'll start your new financial life as a married couple on the right foot. (Strengthen your marriage by discussing these financial pitfalls. Refer to Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues.)

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    Are U.S. Stocks Still the Place To Be in 2016?

    Understand why U.S. stocks are absolutely the place to be in 2016, even though the year has gotten off to an awful start for the market.
  2. Investing News

    U.S. Recession Without a Yield Curve Warning?

    The inverted yield curve has correctly predicted past recessions in the U.S. economy. However, that prediction model may fail in the current scenario.
  3. Investing

    Retirees: 7 Lessons from 2008 for the Next Crisis

    When the last big market crisis hit, many retirees ran to the sidelines. Next time, there are better ways to manage your portfolio.
  4. Economics

    The 2007-08 Financial Crisis In Review

    Subprime lenders began filing for bankruptcy in 2007 -- more than 25 during February and March, alone.
  5. Economics

    Industries That Thrive On Recession

    Recessions are not equally hard on everyone. In fact, there are some industries that even flourish amid the adversity.
  6. Economics

    What is a Complement?

    A good or service that’s used in conjunction with another good or service is a complement.
  7. Fundamental Analysis

    Is a U.S. Industrial Recession on the Horizon in 2016?

    Find out why the industrial economy may be teetering on an industrial recession and what could prevent it from going over the cliff.
  8. Fundamental Analysis

    Gloom and Doom for Global Markets in 2016?

    Learn about the volatility in global markets during the beginning of 2016. See why famous investors are saying some economies could see recessions.
  9. Investing News

    Chipotle Served with Criminal Probe

    Chipotle's beat muted expectations and got a clear bill from the CDC, but it now appears that an investigation into its E.coli breakout has expanded.
  10. Economics

    Lehman Brothers: The Largest Bankruptcy Filing Ever

    Lehman Brothers survived several crises, but the collapse of the U.S. housing market brought the company to its knees.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Which mutual funds made money in 2008?

    Out of the 2,800 mutual funds that Morningstar, Inc., the leading provider of independent investment research in North America, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do interest rates increase during a recession?

    Interest rates rarely increase during a recession. Actually, the opposite tends to happen; as the economy contracts, interest ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Marginal propensity to Consume (MPC) Vs. Save (MPS)

    Historically, because people in the United States have shown a higher propensity to consume, this is likely the more important ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are the risks of annuities in a recession?

    Annuities come in several forms, the two most common being fixed annuities and variable annuities. During a recession, variable ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Is Japan an emerging market economy?

    Japan is not an emerging market economy. Emerging market economies are characterized by low per capita incomes, poor infrastructure ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Are Social Security payments included in the US GDP calculation?

    Social Security payments are not included in the U.S. definition of the gross domestic product (GDP). Transfer Payments For ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  2. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  3. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  4. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  5. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  6. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
Trading Center