Why do couples need to address money issues early on? If you aren't in sync financially, there's little hope of sustaining a happy relationship. Here's what I suggest—whether you're dating, married, or remarried:
Hold on to your independence.
No matter how long you've been together, keep at least one credit card in your name only. This enables you to maintain your own credit report and score; if you break up or are widowed, that makes it easier to start over.
Watch your property.
It's not uncommon for women to enter a relationship with sizable assets of their own. You have every right to retain 100 percent ownership of anything acquired before your marriage.
Consider "for richer or poorer."
Once you wed, you and your spouse are legally responsible for debts accrued during the marriage. Even if your guy seems as if he has his act together, don't assume. Start by swapping your FICO credit scores (myfico.com). Both of you should have good scores (at least 650), or you could be heading for serious stress. Use your scores to open a broader conversation about money. What are your views on spending and saving? Do you agree that paying 15 percent interest or more on credit card debt is stupid? How about bouncing checks or missing bill payments? Next, move on to your dreams: If you have kids, are you on the same page about the cost of education? Do you expect to help out your parents after they retire? Ignore these important talks, and you may end up like the woman in the last question: panicked and with a partner who doesn't respect her. You deserve better.
From the November 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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