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Keeping your marriage financially fit
5 Tips: If you're planning on getting hitched or approaching your 25th wedding anniversary, here's how to keep your finances healthy.
By Gerri Willis, contributing columnist

NEW YORK ( -- Of course love is blind, but that doesn't mean that you have to be. Tying the knot binds your finances together too..for better or worse, in today's top 5 tips we're going to tell you how you can achieve financial harmony in your marriage.

1. Swap your dirty secrets

Go ahead, show your financial warts! And start with your credit report. Everyone has baggage when it comes to their finances. It could be that pesky old credit card debt or your student loans.

After all, these problems will be a burden shared by both of you. While your at it, share information on your spending habits and any other financial commitments you may have made to others in the past.

2. Keep at least two accounts

It may be a good idea to have a pot of money shared between the two of you to be used for paying the household bills. And each spouse should be able to take over the joint account. This way one person isn't stuck paying the bills all the time.

And of course, you may want to keep some discretionary cash on the side. This way you'll both share responsibility for the daily expenses, while also keeping a budget for things you enjoy. At the end of the day we could all use a bit of autonomy.

3. Beware of joint filing risks

Of course there are a lot of benefits to filing jointly - tax breaks for one. But if you have concerns about your spouse's credit history, you may want to take some precautions. Once you file jointly, you're just as liable.

For example, if your partner is called upon to increase alimony payments or child support and is dragged into court, your own tax return will be scrutinized. If your husband or wife underreports income, you'll be jointly liable and that means all the penalty and taxes will fall on your shoulders.

You can get relief from joint liability if you apply for innocent spouse status to the IRS, but it can be very hard to prove according to Amanda Walker of Consumer Reports. In fact, the IRS grants less than 3 in 10 requests for innocent spouse.

4. List your assets

If you've been married for a while, it's natural to forget who owns what. But it's always a good idea to list what you have and then determine how you want it to be distributed after your death.

Unless it's specifically stated in a will or a living trust, your assets might all go to your spouse. If you're in a second marriage, you want to pay specific attention to this.

If you want to leave your property to your kids from the first marriage, it's something that needs to be spelled out since your assets may automatically go to your spouse, according to estate planning specialist Barbara Cane.

5. Be 401(k) savvy

Your 401(k) plans are yours. But make sure you know the strengths and weaknesses of each of your retirement plans so you can balance out each others investments.

Plans may have different matching contributions, and investment options. It's likely that one partner is more conservative and the other is more aggressive, but the takeaway is that the whole retirement pot is allocated properly.


Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send questions to or click here - each week, we'll give answers on CNN, Headline News and Top of page

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