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It’s a story of happiness wasted and opportunity lost, one twisted from bright future to dark today. It’s a story of destruction and of persecution. This is A Christmas Carol. It doesn’t have to be your marriage.

It’s not until after the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future visit Ebenezer Scrooge that Scrooge realizes he must either change his ways or commit to eternal damnation. You’re lucky! You have two merry men rather than three apparitions to ensure your marriage is a happy ever after.

It sometimes seems as if couples spend more time discussing their sexual histories than their financial ones. But arguments over money (not sex) are more often tapped as a warning sign of divorce.

Based on our own relationship and money struggles, we have three financial topics to discuss before you attempt a happy ever after.

1. Read Your Financial Past

Like us, most couples get together because of hormones and pheromones, not debt-to-income ratios and cash-flows. We didn’t discuss our lack of emergency savings or bare-minimum 401(k) contributions during the courting phase and may not have discussed these before marriage had marriage been an option sooner. Once we learned one of us was a big spender and the other was a nickel-and-dimer, we knew how to help each other. We became each other’s financial coach and created a winning financial team.

If your partner is better than you with saving and investing, learn from them. If you know your partner’s financial weaknesses, help them.

2. Tell Your Financial Present

It wasn’t until we knew each other’s credit card balances, credit scores and incomes did we understand where we would be as a couple if and when we decided this was forever. Proving in more ways than one that it’s not always opposites that attract, we learned we were living parallel financial lives.

Some partners don’t realize until after they say, “I do” that any and all savings will be cannibalized by the other’s debt or that one’s good credit score could get weighed down by the other’s bad credit score. This isn’t fair for either partner and lays the foundation for a financial odyssey of horrors. (Editor’s Note: You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.)

Couples who are open about their student loans and other debt and who discuss their individual net worth and incomes avoid post-wedding day surprises. Their financial homeostasis builds a happy home.

3. Draft Your Financial Future

Paramount to all is understanding your financial future, both as individuals and as a couple. Regardless of who you are, any story of rags can evolve to riches, if you get on the same financial page.

We’re often asked, “What’s the one thing that helped you overcome your financial struggles?” It was realizing what we most want from our financial lives; we both want to travel and save for retirement. Now that we know what we want our financial story to be, we can write it.

Ours has become a novel because we understand each other’s financial story. Understanding your financial stories before getting wrapped up in the fairytale will ensure you have a happy ending, too.

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Image: Portra

 

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