6 Smart Steps To Boost Your Financial Prowess As A Couple

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husband and wife looking at paperwork together

Money is a reliable source of tension in relationships, in both married couples and those not yet in wedded bliss.

Vancouver-based financial planner and co-founder of Money Coaches Canada and Women's Financial Learning Centre, Karin Mizgala wrote an article with suggestions about how couples can ward off money problems.

In it she says, "While talking about money can often be more difficult and emotionally charged than talking about intimacy, religion or politics, a simple conversation about money can save you a lot of tension and resentments throughout married life."

Below, we've expanded on Karin's tips and come up with six steps to ensure a financially successful union.

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Here are 6 smart steps to boost your financial prowess as a couple:

1. Make a list of your expenses

This includes regular monthly costs (like rent, groceries, and the gym), major purchases you hope to make (like a new car or flat-screen TV), occasional expenses (like clothing, restaurants, and iced lattes), and a bit of padding for expenses you can't account for.

2. Set a money date

That is, schedule a time to talk about your finances. If you can't do this, well, you're stuck before you can really start. You may want to bring in a third party — a financial planner or therapist — to help you move forward. At the money date, go over each person's list and decide which are joint expenses and which are not.

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3. Decide whether or not you want to merge finances

If you do, go to #4. If you want to keep your finances separate, make sure you agree on which expenses are definitely joint and how you want to split them. Are you going to keep everything 50/50, or split it another way? After you've nailed down how you'll divvy up shared expenses, skip to #6.

4. Set up a joint bank account

Direct all your money into this account and pay shared monthly expenses from here.

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5. Set up four other accounts

And decide how much money you want to go into each: long-term investments, short-term shared (movies, travel, emergencies), and two personal accounts for individual, non-shared money. On this last set of accounts you can each receive an equal amount or split it depending on how much each of you contributes.

6. Don't criticize

This is the last, and most important step. Don't criticize how the other person spends his or her money.

Mizgala calls these personal, discretionary accounts "marriage saver" accounts because having your own money to spend as you like can stop potential money arguments from ever starting.

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Sarah Harrison is an editor and content strategist whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, The New York Times, The Independent, and Psychology Today.