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Say 'I Do' to a financial review

One thing you can definitely say about the current credit crunch - it sure isn't romantic. But for couples about to exchange "I do's," a clear understanding of each other's credit history as singles, and how they will use credit as a couple, is vital to ensure their future wedded bliss.

All signs point to the reality that credit is likely to be difficult to get for a while, even for those with good credit scores. Getting married is a life-changing event that will impact your credit rating. It's important for couples to be open and honest with each other about their credit histories, credit-use habits and plans for using future credit.

Credit has become an integral part of the American institution of marriage. If you are newlyweds, you'll likely require credit to fund some of your basic needs and dreams - from buying your first house to financing the minivan you'll need to transport the big family you plan to have. Your blended credit rating will decide how easy or difficult it is to secure those loans at favorable rates.

So how can you prevent the credit crunch from putting the squeeze on your plans for building a life together? Here are some basic tips:

First, exchange credit reports. As a single person, your credit score was a private matter between you and the people you borrowed money from. When you're married, your credit history becomes linked to your spouse's and he or she deserves to know ahead of time how you rate with lenders. Knowing what's on your credit report is the first vital step toward reaching your personal financial goals as a couple. Get a copy of your credit report at www.FreeCreditReport.com and present it to your intended.

Next, set mutual priorities and goals. If you both have significant debt, perhaps your goal will be to pay that off before incurring any new debt. Pool your earnings to pay off the highest interest debts first - his $9,000 credit card debt may actually cost you more in interest each month than her $14,000 auto loan.

If you both are relatively debt-free, good for you. You can turn your attention to setting savings and spending priorities, including saving for a down payment on a house (the low-rate, zero-down loan is virtually extinct), putting money aside for your retirement or building up your cushion of savings in case the economy gets worse and one of you loses a job. Decide which priority is highest on your list, agree on a time frame for reaching that goal and organize a game plan for getting there.

It's important to have these discussions before the wedding. You'll both enjoy your big day more knowing you're on the same page regarding your financial future.

It is easy to check your credit reports. Web sites like www.FreeCreditReport.com allow you to get your credit report and credit score which gives you more control over your personal finances.

Courtesy of ARAcontent