6 money musts for a happy marriage

6 money musts for a happy marriage

Do you know how much your spouse makes? Are you open and honest with each other about money?

In a new survey of more than 1,000 couples by Fidelity Investments, more than 40 percent failed to correctly identify how much their partner makes, and of that, 10 percent got it wrong by $25,000 or more.

When asked about how much to save for retirement, nearly half of the couples surveyed said they had "no idea" -- and 47 percent were in disagreement about the amount needed.

Here are six tips to help ensure you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to your finances and planning for your future.

1. Make a date to talk about finances

Get together once a week or once a month to assess and discuss your money situation.

"Not talking about this stuff can really cause problems. Make a date," says Liz Weston, author of "Deal with Your Debt."

Be honest with each other about the current state of your finances. It's also a good idea to speak about attitudes toward money that you developed growing up.

"It's good to talk about early experiences with money. That can give an insight," Weston says.

Be open and empathetic when hearing about a spouse's concerns and worries about money.

"If you don't understand where a person is coming from, it's a lot easier to have problems," Weston says. "When people feel judged, they clam up."

2. Share everything with your spouse

Don't hold back any financial information from your spouse.

"When you are married, you should be sharing tax records, looking at each other's credit reports, looking at each other's pay stubs. There really should be full disclosure so you both understand your financial situation," Weston says.

Planning to buy a home together? Going shopping for a new car? Take some extra time to examine each other's credit reports (and get your free credit score), because if you apply for credit jointly, the lender will consider credit scores and history of both you and your spouse.

"Looking at your (spouse's) credit report is not the sexiest thing in the world but it's got to happen," Weston says.

Whether you're researching the best credit cards or eyeing mortgage rates, it's also worth noting that jointly held accounts will affect both of your credit scores.

3. Don't hide problems

Whether it is some real estate you are having difficulty selling, credit card debt you are slowly paying down or a heavy student loan burden, don't hide a financial headache from your spouse.

These things all impact the long-term financial choices you may wish to make as a couple.

"If you don't work this out, there's a lot of resentment," says Mari Adam, a certified financial planner in Boca Raton, Florida. "It's like the elephant in the room because you can't do what you want as a couple until you address these issues. You want to work out a plan together. You want to be moving in the same direction together. You're working toward the same goal."

4. Know your net worth

Once a year or even once a quarter take a snapshot of your net worth as a couple. Subtract liabilities from assets. Where do you stand financially as a couple?

"Are we better off than we were a year ago? Are we creating more debts? Did our net worth increase?" Adam asks.

5. Work toward common goals

To increase savings, you may need to give up impulse shopping or eating lunch out every day, Adam suggests.

"If you have the same values about savings and where you want to be in five or 10 years, you can work it out," Adam advises. "You've got to make decisions together to free up money to do what you want."

If one spouse is paying down credit card debt, meet frequently to see how they are doing sticking to a more thrifty budget, advises, Catherine Hawley, a certified financial planner in Monterey, California.

Frequent meetings or check-ins also are important when a spouse has variable income.

6. Make room for some fun money

If your long-term and short-term financial goals are on target, there's no need to nitpick about spouse's smaller spending habits, Hawley advises.

"Let's make sure you're on track with your goals that are important to you. Once we see you're on track for saving goals, both long term and short term, let's have an amount that goes into the checking account for fun money. So you don't have to ask, 'Can I spend this?'" Hawley says. "It's always nice to automate those, too. It can be a separate savings account."