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Planning key to good fiscal union

Planning key to good fiscal union

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HUDSON - Whitney Clark of Hudson counts pennies and pays bills early, but she quickly found out that her new husband, Bryan, had other priorities.

"I had a bad clothing habit," admitted Bryan Clark. "I have three closets full of clothing and storage downstairs. She has all her clothes in one closet in the master bedroom."

Whitney Clark added, "One of the things that made me so mad after we got married was he bought subscriptions to three men's magazines."

When the honeymoon ended, the 23-year-old newlyweds, like all married couples, had to learn financial compromise.

She pays bills as soon as they arrive. He waits until the deadline. She keeps track of every nickel. He rounds up to the dollar. He has no debt. She owes about $25,000 in student loans.

But no matter their financial habits, the couple talks openly and plans accordingly.

"You've always got to plan for two or else you're going to shortchange yourself," Bryan Clark said.

That's the first step toward financial success, said Carol Burroughs of Forward Financial Planning in Normal.

"Newlyweds, oftentimes they haven't even talked about the financial aspect of their relationship. They don't have a grasp of what their spending habits are," she said. "It takes a little time to compromise."

And compromise is important. According to , a Web site dedicated to wedding planning, financial squabbles are the No. 1 cause of divorce.

Burroughs said couples must develop a plan, a living budget.

The Clarks, for example, paid off all credit card debt, set up a budget, bought an organizer for all their bills and plan to open a joint checking account to track all expenses.

But a slew of other issues arise as well, some with legal implications.

For example, if something happened to Bryan Clark, his wife wouldn't receive his death benefits unless he changed the name on the form from Whitney Payne, her maiden name, to Whitney Clark.

The same is true on retirement investments, Social Security cards, insurance plans and a number of other documents.

The couple also have to determine how to save for retirement. He works for McLean County. She's a nurse at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington. Both have employee-sponsored retirement plans.

"If each can afford it, they should each participate in their own plan. If the couple's current cash flow is limited, then they can decide to make one plan the focus of their retirement strategy," Burroughs said.

If only enrolling in one plan, the couple needs to determine which has the higher employer contribution, the most investment options and the least expense, she said.

The couple should do the same cost-benefit analysis for health, auto and homeowners insurance, she added.

Taxes bring up another issue. Married couples have two options: file jointly or separately, said Paul Gill of Tax Time in Bloomington.

"I'd say 95 percent or more of all cases, if you're married you're going to file jointly because you'll have more income with the chance of being taxed at a lower rate," he said.

If one couple makes substantially more money, however, the couple may want to file separately so the lower income isn't taxed at a higher rate.


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