With so many young couples making the plunge into marital bliss, February is the perfect time to look at one topic that’s vital to a couple’s success; finances.

Financial disagreements are one of the leading reasons for divorce, so getting on the same page early is important. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few things every couple should consider as they plan for their lives together.

Be Transparent

Communication and transparency are vital in all aspects of a successful relationship, including in finances.

Before officially tying the knot, have an open and honest conversation about your current individual situations, including your debt and your views on money. You might want to discuss what your parents taught you about money and what you do and don’t agree with—kindly, of course.

Stay away from criticism and judgment. Learn how to communicate effectively with your spouse.

“Marry” Your Accounts

After the ceremony (and honeymoon), combine your accounts into one joint account. Marriage is a unification of two lives. Your accounts should become unified too.

Keeping an area of your relationship separate -- even your bank accounts -- can lead to separation in other areas. Having a shared account promotes honesty and helps with transparency.

Make a Plan

You’re planning to spend the rest of your lives together. It would be best to have a financial plan to facilitate long-range goals.

Your long-term plan should include goals for retirement, homeownership and starting a family.

Before the big day, sit down and have a conversation about your goals for the future. Where do you want to live? What do you want to do for a living? These are all questions that are vital to understanding what kind of future you want and how you need to plan to achieve it.

Separate Retirement Accounts

Speaking of the future, one thing that can actually be beneficial is having separate retirement accounts.

Does one of your jobs offer a better retirement savings plan? Does one NOT offer one?

While combining financial accounts is important, there are likely going to be advantages to having two retirement accounts to better maximize your retirement savings. If you have a plan at your workplace that offers matching funds, use that plan. Otherwise, open up a Roth IRA for yourself and start saving.

If you have a financial advisor, this would certainly be a topic to discuss with them. 

Make a Budget

Any good financial plan includes a budget. Start by adding your essential costs — housing, transportation, utilities, groceries, insurance — and discretionary spending — gym, shopping, entertainment, streaming services, etc.

If you aren’t sure how much you spend on various categories, track your spending for at least a month.

You might find that expenses you could afford while single, need to be adjusted now that you’re married.

Deal with Debt

The best time to deal with your debt is when you are newly married, before you have kids or the added financial stress of owning a home or business. You will also likely have more disposable income when you are first married, so use that money to start tackling your debt.

Once you're debt-free, you'll have more available funds and can start working toward your next financial goal, like buying a home. 

Don’t Hide Spending

There’s the old joke about hiding the shopping bags before your husband or wife gets home. The reality is, hiding how you spend money can lead to serious problems.

Be sure that both of you are upfront about finances and that you are totally open about your current financial situation. If something feels off when you have the “money talk,” that’s a warning sign that something needs to be dealt with.

Don’t Ignore Concerns

No matter how much you love each other, you CANNOT ignore financial warning signs.

For example, keep an eye on issues like overspending, unwillingness to sit down and talk about finances, or a poor credit score.

Keep in mind that people make mistakes and if your partner has been working on fixing past financial mistakes, you shouldn't hold it against them. Rather, you should continue to be vigilant.

Set a Minimum Cost for Discussing Big Expenses

It’s important to discuss major financial decisions with each other before making them. It’s also smart to set a dollar amount as to what needs to be discussed.

You probably don’t have to discuss every $2 candy bar purchase before making it. But $200? $500? $1,000? That’s something you may want to agree on beforehand.

Start an Emergency Fund NOW

Emergencies happen.

Major expenditures like storm repairs, replacing appliances, and buying new tires are part of life. There are also occasions like job loss, identity theft, a stolen credit card, or a family emergency.

That’s why it’s important to have an emergency fund; money set aside specifically in case of an emergency.

Set up a savings account both of you have access to – ideally at a bank that isn’t your normal bank so that it’s a little bit harder to access on the spur of the moment – and set up an automatic transfer so that a portion of every paycheck is deposited into it.

Leave this account alone. Let it grow. Save it for real emergencies. You’ll be glad you did.

Plan for the Worst

When the worst happens, you don’t want to leave your family scrambling to figure out the future. Getting life insurance can at least help to ensure that your loved ones are able to handle the immediate costs and financially weather your loss.

There are different plans available, so be sure to find the one that is right for you and your family and fits within your budget.