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What's the secret to a happy marriage? We all know that stress can cause a real strain on a relationship, especially financial stress. So it's important to learn how to minimize that stress. Here's our money advice for newlyweds.

For richer or for poorer… that’s what you agreed to when you spoke your vows in front of friends and family. But while it can be easy to promise to love and to cherish no matter what situations arise, the reality is that money is often a source of contention for newlyweds.

In fact, money is the most common reason for arguments in the first three years of marriage, according to one study. It easily beats out religion, fights about kids, and even how many hours one spouse spent in front of the television. So, what can newly-married couples do to prevent money from impacting their relationship?

Here are five financial vows that all newlyweds should make. These will not only set the foundation for financial success, but they’ll also help keep the peace over the years.

Related: How to Improve Your Relationship (With Money)

I Vow to Be Honest About Money… Always

The easiest way to break your partner’s trust and ensure that money is a constant source of contention is to lie about it. Whether you’re fibbing about how much those new shoes cost or hiding a secret savings account, the result is the same. And it’s not good.

According to a recent study, 31% of respondents said that financial infidelity–the act of hiding credit cards, debt, or savings–was worse than physical infidelity! While it can feel like no big deal to tuck money aside or keep an account to yourself, this deceit has the potential to do some serious damage.

Never lie to your spouse about money. Even if it’s uncomfortable to admit that you blew the budget or need to rein in your spending. It’s better than the alternative: betraying your loved one’s trust. And failing to be honest about your entire financial situation prevents you and your spouse from setting accurate, realistic money goals.

I Vow to Have SMART Goals

There are few financial success stories that didn’t first start with good goals. Whether your plans involve saving more, spending less, earning more, or better managing what you have, it’s important to determine what you want to achieve.

By setting SMART financial goals–Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-driven, and Time-bound–you will accomplish a few important things.

First, you’ll ensure that the goals you set are realistic and able to be achieved in the first place. “I want to be rich soon!” isn’t a goal worth setting–what is “rich”, when is “soon”, and how will you know when you get there? Saying that you want to be debt-free and have $XX in a retirement account by the time you’re 50, however? Now that is a goal you can measure, has a time-constraint, and is specific.

Second, you will be able to ensure that both you and your spouse are on the same page as far as your financial future. It gives you the opportunity to talk through differences in plans and ideals, determine how you’ll reach your goals and what changes you need to make to get there, and you can keep one another accountable.

I Vow to Make Our Future a Priority

Starting a new life together is fun and exciting. You might think about buying your first home, planning exciting adventures, or starting a family. Unfortunately, all of those things cost money.

When you’re a newlywed, it’s important to think about the future, and that includes thinking about how your choices now will impact your finances down the road. If you spend more than you can afford (or more than you truly need) today on a big home, fancy car, expensive trips, or even just flashy purchases, you’re affecting your future… and your new spouse’s future, too.

It’s not nearly as fun to live modestly, especially when you are young and don’t have kids to think about yet. The money you could start putting into retirement today would lay a wonderful foundation for a long, prosperous future with your loved one.

I Vow to Plan for the Worst

We can’t control what the future holds. Whether we will encounter tough times, emergency situations, illness, or even death is uncertain. What is certain, though, is that we can prepare our finances so that our loved ones are always protected… even in the worst situations.

This begins with establishing an emergency fund. Aim to set aside at least 6 months’ worth of expenses in a savings account, which can be utilized if either of you ever loses a job, gets sick, etc. Building up that big of a cushion will take time, so start off with $1,000 in a high-yield savings account, and add to the fund each month.

You should also consider buying a life insurance policy, both for you and your spouse. This is especially important if you get a mortgage, have children, or if either of you depend on the other financially. Even if you or your spouse would do just fine financially if something happened to the other, a life insurance policy could cover final expenses and maybe even make life a bit more comfortable for the one left behind.

Creating a will and a financial binder are just as important. This way, your loved ones won’t be forced to scramble to find accounts, align finances, or wonder about your wishes.

No one likes to think about the worst happening. Failing to at least plan for it, though, is unfair to those you love.

I Vow to Make Us Just as Important

You already know that maintaining a healthy, happy marriage is hard work. Nothing good in life comes easy, and a lasting union certainly isn’t the exception.

As important as it is to iron out the financial logistics, it’s just as (if not more) important to make your new relationship a priority. This will not only spare you many of the money-related fights that could occur, but could also potentially save you a ton of money in the end.

Half of it, to be exact.

By being open and honest with your significant other, you will avoid the feelings of betrayal that come with financial infidelity. By spending wisely and planning for the future (even worst-case scenarios), you show your spouse that they, and your future together, are your first priority.

Make sure to put your relationship and your connection with your spouse above the daily grind if you truly want to save yourself some heartache–financial and otherwise. Couples that make time for one another, even if that means free activities like a walk through the park or eating dinner (sans cell phones) on the back deck, often find success in their relationship as a whole.

The more respect you have for your spouse and your relationship, the more you’ll make it (and its future) a priority. Plus, by putting daily emphasis on maintaining a healthy relationship, you can hopefully avoid one of the biggest financial impacts of all: a divorce.

Marriage is an exciting adventure, filled with challenges and achievements along the way, and the joining of finances along with your lives brings with it unique challenges. By making these five money vows from the very beginning, you can hopefully avoid many of the financial problems that plague couples today.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for a newlywed couple?

Author Bio

Total Articles: 100
Stephanie Colestock is a respected financial writer based in Washington, DC. Her work can be found on sites such as Investopedia, Credit Karma, Quicken, The Balance, Motley Fool, and more, covering a range of topics such as family finances, planning for the future, optimizing credit, and getting out of debt. She is currently working toward her CFP certification. Her full portfolio can be found at stephaniecolestock.com.

Article comments

Steveark says:

As a couple who just had their 40th anniversary last month I’d say never make a significant purchase unless you’ve discussed it with your spouse and both of you are OK with it. My significant I mean over $50 to $100. I’m not talking about grocery shopping or paying the electric bill but any discretionary purchase for yourself. If I need a tennis racquet I tell my wife what I’d like to do. And we’ve got millions at this point, but still, we have made it 40 years without a money fight because we honestly treat all our money as our money, not my money or her money.

Nathan Harvey says:

Live off of one income and bank the other in preparation for the down payment on a home or whatever else arises. This is especially important if one of you plans to stay home when you have children.