I Want To Grow My Money...Why Would I Need Any Income Investments?

But I’m looking to grow my money. Why would I want income investments in my account?”

This is a common question I get from Wela clients as we talk through the process of developing a retirement savings portfolio to meet their particular objectives. It’s a great question that makes sense. And here’s the answer.

When we think about saving for retirement, we often visual our efforts as growing something -- a “nest egg” that expands with every deposit we make in our retirement account.

But a well-crafted retirement strategy is actually more like a machine than an incubator. It has several moving parts that work together to leverage your contributions and move you towards your goal. The twin motors in that machine are growth and income investments, which work together, with each taking the lead at different times in the journey to and through retirement.

Income investments

Income investments

Growth stocks are shares in companies that currently prioritize expansion and increased market share. These businesses pour most of their profits back into operations, and thus don’t pay dividends. Netflix and Amazon are good examples. If/as a growth company expands, investors benefit from the steady, sometimes dramatic, rise in value of their shares. Growth stocks are what people talk about at the office coffee machine. “Yeah, I bought Acme Corp at $10 a share five years ago and just sold it for $71.”

Income stocks are boring by comparison. They tend to be established companies in mature industries – think Proctor & Gamble, Apple, Disney – that are unlikely to show dramatic growth in share price. Instead they just ton the revenue and pay their shareholders a regular dividend.

Related: Income Investing - Cut Through The Clutter

Bonds, which are essentially a loan to a business or government, are another source of income, as owners of the bond receive regular interest payments. Investors can also receive income from alternative investments, including real estate investment trusts, preferred stocks and shares in pipeline and energy storage companies. All of these assets are traded on open markets like stocks and bonds.

So, let’s assemble Wela’s version of the retirement investment machine. It consists of three buckets based on the above – stocks, bonds and alternative investments – designed to grow your money while providing diversity to protect you from market volatility.

Stocks – During most of your working career, your portfolio should contain mostly shares in growth companies. Ideally, these stocks will significantly appreciate in value over the years and decades, providing a nice profit when you liquidate them in retirement.

But you should also hold some income stocks to provide diversification and stability. The dividends these shares pay can be reinvested in your portfolio, turbo-charging your growth.

Related: How To Build Your Investment Portfolio To Meet Your Retirement Needs

When you retire, we recommend shifting your focus to income stocks. You can continue to reinvest their dividend income, or use it to help fund your lifestyle. Income stocks also tend to be less volatile than growth shares and thus offer the stability you want in retirement.

Bonds – Contributions to this bucket are invested in a diversified range of bonds – Treasury municipal and corporate – that will provide a steady stream of interest income while protecting your principal.

Your portfolio should hold a greater percentage of bonds (as opposed to stocks), as you get closer to retirement. We recommend, “owning your age” in bonds. When you are in your 40’s, bonds should make up 40% of your portfolio. When you are 50, that percentage should be 50%.

Related: Why You Should "Own Your Age" In Your Investment Portfolio

Alternative investments – This smallest bucket of non-stock or bond assets provides more income and some insulation from the gyrations of the stock market.

So, why should you hold income investment when you’re seeking growth? Because income investments – stocks, bonds and alternative investments – can both enhance and protect that growth. The dividends, interest and other payments generated by income assets can be reinvested, even as those assets themselves insulate you from volatility by providing diversity and stability.

Your investment machine isn’t hitting on all cylinders unless you have income assets in the fuel mix.

Disclosure: The information is provided to you as a resource for educational purposes only. Nothing herein should be considered investment, legal, or tax advice. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is not indicative of future results when considering any investment vehicle. This information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. It is not intended to, and should not, form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax, or investment advisor before making any investment/tax/estate/financial planning considerations or decisions.

7 Smart Ways To Get Started Investing

It is easy to dream up great ideas, think through great processes, theorize about potential solutions, but actually starting down the path of a difficult task seems to constantly be put on the back burner.

We see this all the time with investing, and hear excuses like:

“I don’t have enough money to invest”

“I don’t know how to invest.”

And one of the biggest one to date:

“I don’t know where to start.”

It’s time to eliminate this obstacle. As with a ball rolling down a hill, once it gets started it can pick up speed. The same can be true for you and investing. Here are seven ways to get started investing.

1. The Easy Choice – Start contributing to your company’s retirement plan today, if your company offers one. This would be a 401k, 403b or other similar employer retirement plans. This is the easiest option because you can make your savings and investments automatic. The contributions to your investment account will come out of your paycheck. The investments are chosen once and continue to get added to every time you contribute. Boom; you are now an investor.

2. The Alternative – Maybe your employer doesn’t provide a retirement plan. Don’t let that be your excuse. You can easily start saving in your own retirement account. Vanguard offers several investment vehicles that can provide you a simple, low-cost option to start investing on your own. Open up a brokerage account or a Roth account (if eligible). Then set up automatic contributions to the account and select a broad-based investment option like their Vanguard S&P 500 index fund. Once you’ve done this you’ve one-upped your employer while also becoming an investor.

Related: 10 Ways To Start Saving

3. What You Know – Take a look around. Do you see a recurring theme of items within your closet or within your house? Possibly a bunch of Nike shoes and pullovers? Or could it be that your kids’ diapers are a brand of Procter and Gamble. Or Target bags litter your house. Whichever it is, you might as well invest in the companies where you spend the most money. It can be simple and automatic. Head over to computershare.com and find the company that you are most tied to (with regards to your interests) and set up a DRIP (Dividend Re-Investment Program) account. You can set up automatic monthly contributions to this particular account. Now, when you spend money, you’re helping make yourself money!

4. The Conservative – Maybe the stock market isn’t for you. That’s fine, there are options out there for you. Look at Treasurydirect.gov. You can start to buy government bonds here. This will allow you to at least earn some interest on your cash, and it can be your first step to longer term investing.

5. The Lazy Man – The technology age has provided an app for just about everything, and getting started investing isn’t any different. So, if you say that Vanguard and Computershare are your parent’s investment options, then maybe check out Acorns or Digit.co. Both of these products help you save automatically into investment accounts. Acorns looks to take your spare change from your spending and invest those monies into a diversified investment account. While Digit.co analyzes your spending habits, and then invests excess funds from your checking account on a regular basis. The beauty of these apps is that they don’t just save your money, they invest it! So while you are spending, they will work to get you started investing… win, win.

Related: Just The Basics: 9 Common Ways To Invest

6. Not Yet Innovative – Maybe you aren’t ready to move all your investing and saving to the ‘app’esphere.’ That’s ok. Another option for you could be to set up an account with Sharebuilder Investment Plan by Capital One. This is a good, low-cost option of automating your saving into a diverse set of investment options. You can choose from thousands of options and your savings are automatically contributed to each of the investments.

7. The Book Worm – Maybe you want to take it slow to getting started investing. That’s fine. You should learn from the best as a baby step. Make sure to read one of my favorites The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. He is the guy that Warran Buffett learned from, which I have to say worked out very well! It’s a long read, so for those that are ready to start investing sooner, then take a look at The Little Book of Investing by John Bogle. He is the founder of Vanguard and the father of the index fund (the ETF before ETFs were born). That’s a way to get knowledge from some of the best investors before you start to invest.

Related: 8 Books You Should Read To Be A Better Investor

*Bonus! The Hybrid – You’re ready to get started investing, but you’re looking for a lifeguard before you jump into the deep end of investments. Then you should take a look at Wela. By investing through Wela, you have access to not only our Wela Strategies ETFs which are guided by a team of experienced investment professionals but also our financial tools and resources. Our advisors act as your investing lifeguards, allowing you to jump into the water with confidence. It's easy to get started. Click here to learn more.

The uncertainty has been cleared, the questions about how to actually invest are answered. And you are now full steam ahead to investing in your financial future.

Our team member, Eddie Goepp, always says that the best day to start investing is yesterday. The second best day is today. Head that advice, as it has proven to be successful for many before us and likely for many after us.

Disclosure: The information is provided to you as a resource for educational purposes only. Nothing herein should be considered investment, legal, or tax advice. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is not indicative of future results when considering any investment vehicle. This information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. It is not intended to, and should not, form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax, or investment advisor before making any investment/tax/estate/financial planning considerations or decisions.

9 Pieces Of Financial Advice From Wise Men

There are no secrets to successful financial planning and investing. In fact, the core principles have routinely been shouted from the roof tops for at least 200 years in pamphlets, handbills, sermons, speeches, books, radio shows, TV programs, audio tapes, DVDs, blog posts, tweets, and probably even Snapchats.

I recently came across a list of well-known money-related quotes that pretty much distills the financial wisdom of the ages. Here are my Top 9.

“Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.” – Ben Franklin. This two-century-old gem pointedly reminds us of the corrosive effect of debt, and wisely urges us to avoid it. Yes, there is “good debt,” including mortgages and business loans, which helps build assets. But many Americans carry too much “bad debt” from credit cards and other consumer loans that were used to finance a lifestyle beyond their true means.

Related: When Good Debt Goes Bad

Related: Actionable Steps You Can Use To Get Rid Of Credit Card And Mortgage Debt

“In investing, what is comfortable is rarely profitable.” -- Robert Arnott. A good reminder that risk is an unavoidable part of investing. And, the higher the risk, the higher the potential returns. In shaping an investment strategy, you need to honestly assess your risk tolerance and create a diversified portfolio that includes some acceptable higher-risk investments. The younger you are, the more risk you should consider.

“Know what you own, and why you own it.” – Peter Lynch. Seems obvious, but many investors have lost track of their holdings, or never fully knew them. The journey to financial success is like any trip. You need to know both your destination and how you are getting there. Otherwise you’ll get lost, or take much longer than necessary to arrive. Review your portfolio on a regular basis and tweak it as needed.

Related: Why You Should "Own Your Age" In Your Investment Portfolio

“Speculation leads you the wrong way. It allows you to put your emotions first, whereas investment gets emotions out of the way.” – John Bogle Successful investing is a marathon. You need to set specific goals, settle on a strategy and execute that strategy consistently and dispassionately – year in, year out. Jumping in and out of the market based on fear or greed is bad for both your nest egg and your stress levels.

“Personal finance is not rocket science. Personal finance is about 80% behavior. It’s only about 20% head knowledge.” – Dave Ramsey. Discipline is everything. It’s not enough to say you are going to cut your spending and increase your savings. You have to actually DO IT. Consistently.

“I will tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy, be greedy when others are fearful.” – Warren Buffett Be wary of the ‘hot thing.” Be careful about jumping on the latest investment trend. Seek out the upside opportunities when things are looking bad. When Apple stock recently took a slight tumble, smart investors saw that as a “sale” on a great stock, not a sign to dump their shares.

Related: 7 Smart Ways To Get Started Investing

“The four most dangerous words in investing are, ‘This time it’s different.’” – Sir John Templeton.   Beware of false prophets, both purveyors of doom and sunshine sellers. Learn a bit about the market -- it’s history and patterns.

“Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.” -- Paul Samuelson No day trading. No. Day. Trading.

Related: Does Day Trading Add Up?

“If you have trouble imagining a 20% loss in the stock market, you shouldn’t be in stocks.” -- John Bogle   There will be market ups and downs over the course of your investment journey. A few will be dizzying. But over the past 100 years the market has moved steadily higher. Keep your perspective. Remember: The current value of your portfolio means very little if you are 20, 30 years away from retirement.

Related: 6 Completely Terrible Pieces Of Financial Advice

Download The Wela app to get started on your financial journey today.

How Your Peers Spend and Save

Ever wished you could peek at the spending habits of someone with the same salary as you? The brave individuals reveal just that—their salaries, budgeting strategies, and financial goals for the year.

Heather Yamada-Hosley, Product Marketing Specialist

Salary: $36,000/year Location: San Jose, CA

I'm a product marketing specialist for a company that produces flash based storage devices mainly for enterprise customers. Basically, I run the social media accounts and write a lot of content (product descriptions, catalogs, trade show booth banners, etc.). Here's what my day is like.

My education level is a B.A. in Global Economics from University of California, Santa Cruz. Fortunately, my parents started saving for my educational expenses from the time I was born and I also worked for two years as a community assistant, so I didn't have to pay for housing or meal plans during that time. I have made an extreme effort not to incur any debt since I had the fortune of not having student loans.

I rent a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment with two housemates. The rent is split proportionally based on how much space each person has. I have the smallest bedroom and don't have a private bathroom so I pay the least amount in rent ($725 of $2315). We evenly split deposit ($600 at both places) and all utilities ($200/month) which includes water, gas, electricity, trash, and cable/internet. I pay about $40/month for my cell phone bill.

While I don't always spend the full amount in each category (like clothing), here's a breakdown of my monthly budget:

Rent: $725 Utilities: $100 Roth IRA: $100 Groceries: $200 Public transportation: $90 Phone: $40 Entertainment: $60 Restaurants/bars: $100 Laundry: $20

I use Mint to help me keep track of my budget. I check my bank and credit card balance about every other day so I don't overspend. I have two credit cards and I pay off their balances in full every month, and I invest $100 to my Roth IRA every month (it's automatically deducted from my checking account).

My biggest money challenges are small purchases (mainly online shopping) adding up. In the past month, I actually unsubscribed from many online retailer email lists to avoid the temptation of sales and such! I've also taken to adding items I want to my Amazon wishlist instead of buying them outright, which gives me time to consider if I really want or need them. This has worked very well so far in decreasing my online shopping spending on unnecessary items.

My financial goals in 2014 are to continue to contribute to my Roth IRA and emergency fund, as well as saving enough money to travel abroad at least once. Any extra money I have after budgeting for my expected expenses (as detailed above) is split 60/40 to go into my emergency and travel funds.

Andrew Cilento, Financial Representative

Salary: $52,000/year Location: Long Island, NY

I work for a large financial services company. Right now I'm licensed to sell insurance; next up are securities exams, and I'll become a certified financial planner. I sort of fell into this—I was unemployed over the summer, had a recruiter reach out to me, and decided it was what I wanted to persue both now and long-term. I'm a 1099 employee now, so I sock money into a separate account to cover taxes. My take-home pay ends up being $3,000/month. After a year, this becomes a commission job, at which point I'll be earning more.

I stayed local for college and commuted. I did my first two years at a community college, got good grades, and had a local school offer to pay half of my tuition (which I took them up on). I had student loans, but was able to pay them off earlier this year. My loans were low compared to some—about $11,000 total—and I had a job earlier this year making a lot more than my expenses. My advice? Pay more than the minimum.

I live at home (I moved back after losing my last job), and I write my parents a check for $1,000/month. We looked at listings for similar-sized apartments in the area and came up with that amount based on that and a percentage of the house's utilities (including cable and internet). I also pay for my cell phone, which comes to about $85/month after a discount through work. Other expenses include dinner, drinks, and the occasional concert or sporting event with friends—that comes out to about $200/month.

I have nine credit cards that I've opened over the years to take advantage of the different 0% interest and balance transfer offers, but most of them sit locked away and I only use them once or twice a year to keep them open. There's a bit of a hit to your credit score when you open a card, but as long as you keep your balances low or pay them off every month, it can actually improve your score over time. I actively use these three:

A card for personal expenses that earns two miles for every dollar I spend. Any expense I can put on a credit card goes here, with one exception...

An Amazon rewards card that earns three points for every dollar I spend on Amazon. When you buy as many things there as I do (about $120/month), it works out very well.

A business card for business expenses—supplies, client lunches, etc.

I follow (or at least try to) the 50/20/30 rule. 20% of what I bring in goes to savings (5% to my emergency fund, 5% to moving out money, 5% to retirement, and 5% to life insurance); 50% goes to essentials; and the remaining 30% is mine to do with as I please—right now, that's putting as much into savings as possible. I use Moneydance, which I'm not entirely in love with, but it does the job. I've been playing around with Moneywell for awhile now, and at some point I'll take time to move everything over there.

My greatest challenge when it comes to money is replenishing my emergency fund—it took a big hit when I was unemployed. My best advice for surviving unemployment: have 3-6 months' expenses put aside. Also:

Treat the job search like your full-time job. Wake up in the morning, hit the job boards and want ads, and put out as many applications as you can stomach.

Figure out what you absolutely have to spend money on and don't spend anything else.

Don't be afraid to flip burgers or ring a cash register while you look for something full-time.

Above all, keep your head up and try not to lose your mind. Seriously.

Jaime Zepeda, Project and Relationship Manager

Location: Bay Area, CA Salary: $68,000/year

A few years ago I switched over to a job that has become quite a blessing. It nearly doubled my salary, and gave me some financial wiggle room that I didn't have before. My advice for getting the best salary: make them say the first word. Come into the conversation with an acceptable salary range in mind, but when they ask you what salary you want, respond with, "I'm sure we will be able to negotiate something that is within the range the company put aside for this position." They may ask again, but stick to your guns. Never show your cards first!

My big budget items are probably familiar:

Rent: $1,200 (I live alone)

Student loans: $400

Miscellaneous (clothes, books, etc.): Around $100

Entertainment: Varies a lot (see below)

The first two have stayed pretty static. I've been very conscious of not growing my lifestyle standards as quickly or generously as my paycheck. But entertainment is probably the most troublesome of the bunch.

Here's something that usually happens when you get a higher-paying job: you work more, which means you have less time and energy for everything else. This everything else includes cooking your own meals and making your lunch. Thus, the entertainment budget expands as you go to food trucks for lunch and restaurants for dinner more and more. Over the last few months I've spent on average $300-400 on non-grocery food and entertainment, and I'm not proud of that. It's very easy to let this expense slip and become a monster.

Because of my mostly static expenses and larger income flow, I can do two things that I previously couldn't: shrink debt and start investing. Once I finally had some of that thing, what's it called? ah yes, "discretionary income," I started to chip away at the debt that followed me (with ridiculous interest rates) for many years. I used what's called a "debt snowball" approach. Using this debt snowball, I halved my consumer debt in two years, and brought down my monthly payments, which means more money left in my pocket. Here's the gist of how it works:P

Add as much as you reasonably can to the monthly payment of your smallest debt. Let's say the payment is $50 a month, but you can add another $50, so you'd be paying a cool $100 a month.

Once that smallest debt has been paid off, use all of that money and add it to the second-smallest debt's monthly payment, and so on. To follow the example above, those $100 bucks will be added to the payment of the second-smallest debt, so if that was $30 a month, you'd now be paying $130.

The second thing I did with this extra money was start investing. I talked to various people who know way more about this than I do, and they all told me to skip the savings account and go straight into stocks, and so I did. I set an investment plan for myself, figuring out how much I could put into investments on a monthly basis, and thought about these funds as if they were my savings.

In order to be successful in investing you need two things in large doses: curiosity and patience. Research the companies you want to invest in, and make sure they're built for stability and steady growth. When you finally put your money into their coffers, wait. The benefit won't come right now, tomorrow, or next week; consider your money as not-yours for at least five years. Investing money for the long-run is a more conservative strategy than you might think.

For 2014 I have a few goals. First, I want to finish the job of erasing my consumer debt. I'm halfway there, and I can smell the flowers! I also want to keep putting money into my stocks and resist the urge to go for short-run profits. I'm hopeful that by doing these two things I'll grow to be a happy dude with a cane in a few decades.

This article originally appears on Lifehacker.

9 Most Important Things To Know About Personal Finance

There are so many crappy lists on the Internet, most of them designed to get advertising in front of your eyeballs. We have our own non-crappy list to share. It's our list of fundamental truths of personal finance and investing. 

1. It Ain’t Rocket Science – Money guru Dave Ramsey has observed that “80% of personal finance is behavior” not education. You don’t need to be an expert on the stock market or high finance to start building for the future. All you really need is a solid plan and the commitment and discipline to stick with it over the years.

2. Start Early – Time can provide a powerful tailwind for your investments. The sooner you start saving for retirement, the more time your money has to take advantage of compound interest – a process in which the interest on your savings earns more interest. We should start saving for retirement from Day One of our first job. If you haven’t started yet, do it today! Waiting just 8-10 years to launch your savings program can really slow your growth and reduce the size of your potential retirement nest egg.

Related: Entrepreneurs - Why They Need Financial Planning Too

3. Set Goals – If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Carefully define your savings objectives, whether it’s a house or retirement. Visualize them in detail. Then, figure out how much you need to reach that dream. Use that information to craft a plan to reach your goal.

4. Budget – We too often think of a budget as a straightjacket or prison cell. But it’s actually an empowering tool that allows you to see where your money is actually going, better control your spending and stay on track towards your goals. If you don’t have a budget, you are flying blind in one of the most important aspects of your life – your finances. We guarantee you will get at least three significant surprises when you start analyzing your spending. “I spent how much at Starbucks last month?!

5. Spend Less Than You Make – Common sense, right? But it’s incredibly easy in this easy-credit, consumer-driven world to live beyond our means. Try to save at least 15% of your income.

6.  Pay Yourself First – You can’t spend money you never see. Arrange to have your savings deducted from your paycheck via the 401k plan and/or direct deposit into a brokerage account.

Related: Why Investing In Your 401k Is A No-Brainer

7. Always Take Free Money – If your employer offers to match a percentage of your 401K contribution – and most do -- maximize that benefit by contributing to the match limit.

8. Don’t Go House Crazy – There is nothing worse than being ”house poor.” A too-big mortgage payment can really limit your ability to save – and spend on other things you need and want. So, when shopping for a new house is careful not to over-buy. Think very carefully about what you actually need in a home. How many square feet? How many bedrooms? How big a yard? How important is it to live in that trendy neighborhood? Stick to those parameters in your search. And remember: You don’t have to spend every dollar the bank is willing to lend you.

Related: How Do I Know How Much To Spend On My House?

9. Protect Yourself – A complete personal finance plan includes provisions to protect the life and future you are building. Life insurance and estate planning are key to making sure your obligation to your loved ones is met, even after you are gone. If you don’t have life insurance start shopping for it today. (If you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, do that. Make sure your benefit reflects any changes in your situation.) As soon as that’s done, make your will and get it filed. You can use an attorney or an online legal service like LegalZoom.com.

Related: Do You Need a Will?

So, there you have it – the most useful, least misleading list in the history of the Internet.

Have questions? Not to worry. Just Click the button below. 

How to Merge Your Money When You Marry

Time and time again, we hear that money is the biggest problem for married couples, and yes, the main cause of divorce. It’s a problem that starts before most couples tie the knot.

More than two-thirds of engaged couples had negative attitudes about discussing money with their soon-to-be spouse, with five percent saying even having the conversation would cause them to call off the wedding, according to a recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). And fewer than one-third thought a money conversation would be easy and productive.

Not the right attitude for financial success in a marriage, indeed.

Before you let money issues tank your wedded bliss, learn how to not suck at merging your money when you marry.

Start the Conversation

Sure, it's hard to tell the person you plan to spend your life with that you've got $20,000 in credit card debt, but it's even harder to tell that kind of news to your new spouse after the wedding. However ugly your finances, you need to get it out before the wedding bells ring.

Seriously—how can you plan for a life together if one partner isn't being honest? And you certainly don't want to be denied a mortgage after finding the perfect white-picket fence home because you didn't tell your spouse about your crappy credit score.P

Have a sit-down where you both share the good, the bad and the ugly. Bring credit card statements and other bills, investment account statements, pay stubs and even a copy of your credit report. (You can get that for free once a year from each of the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com, and if you find trouble with yours, start fixing it.)

Where Does the Money Go?

You should both write a list of all your household expenses. This should include fixed expenses such as rent and car payments. Next, write a list of your joint discretionary expenses—money you don't have to spend but you choose to—such as eating out or a trip to the movies. Finally, you should each write a separate list of your personal discretionary expenses—the stuff on which you spend money for your benefit alone—such as haircuts, clothes shopping trips, and the like.P

Who Pays for What?

Many couples come into a marriage with two very different incomes. Some couples choose to divide the household expenses evenly, but you might consider splitting those expenses based on what each partner earns. For example, say Joe earns 40% of the total household income and Mary earns 60%, perhaps she would be responsible for 60% of the rent. Then look at your personal expenses and decide which will be paid for individually and which should be part of your joint budget. P

And be fair. If you think your facials should come out of the joint budget, don't get mad when your partner wants to use joint cash for the neighborhood poker game. To avoid those kinds of fights, in your budget, create columns for "yours," "mine" and "ours," and come to an agreement on how much money you can each spend without "permission" from the other.

Who Manages the Money?

Decide how you're going to pay the bills. Some couples find success by opening a joint account into which each partner deposits their contribution to the monthly bills, while others like to keep their money completely separate. Still others dump every penny into the community pot.P

There is no right answer—you have to talk to your partner to decide what's right for you as a couple. With either strategy, make sure you're clear on who is responsible for physically paying the bills so you can avoid late fees and other awfulness. Also think about paying bills online through your bank's web site so you can both access and monitor all the goings-on of your money.

Make Long-Term Plans

There are three main items you need to master in your money marriage: paying off debt, starting an emergency fund and creating long-term savings plans. (Don't forget that you may be getting a bunch of cash from wedding presents that could be used to fund any of these goals.)P

1. Pay down debt: Create a plan to pay off your debts, and decide who is responsible for them. If only one spouse has owes money, decide if that spouse alone will be paying it off or if it's a team effort. Follow some of these tips to start digging out.

2. Emergency fund: Money pros say you should have between three and six months of expenses in a liquid savings account. This is money that you shouldn't touch unless there's a dire financial emergency. Decide to set money aside each month — just like a regular bill — until you hit your target amount. There are several online tools available, like this BankRate.com calculator that can help you do the math.P

3. Make plans for long-term savings, such as for retirement. Calculate 401(k) and IRA contributions as part of your budget, and make sure you're both saving at least enough to take advantage of the company's match. Also discuss other long-term goals, such as buying a house, and create a savings plan to accumulate what you'll need for your down payment.

Other Things That Marriage Changes

Yes, marriage may change lots of things, but we're talking about the money-related stuff. Don't forget to:P

1. Change your beneficiaries on retirement accounts and insurance policies, assuming you want your spouse, and not your sibling or mom and dad, to get your stuff when you're gone. 2. You'll soon be filing your tax returns jointly, which means you may want to make some changes to your payroll withholding. 3. Make sure to update your estate planning documents to reflect your marriage. If you plan to change your name, make sure to do it on all your documents, credit cards, investment accounts and yes, your bank accounts, too.

Keep Up the Conversation

Even when you've taken all the steps in this post, your job isn't done. You need to keep talking to your spouse about your finances. Pledge to have a monthly meeting to discuss the bills, and then every six months, meet to go over account statements for debt and savings so you can see your progress and make any changes you need to stay on track.

Also consider this: If you decide that one person will be in charge of the bills and the investing, be sure the other spouse knows what you have and what you owe. Should the bill payer drop dead, the other spouse will need to take over. Make it easy for non-managing spouse by starting a "When I'm Dead" file.


This article originally appears in The Consumerist.