The gown, the ceremony, the reception, the flowers, the pictures. There are many elements that make a perfect wedding. If you are about to tie the knot, you know how stressful planning a wedding can be. But amid all the stress, have you taken the time to discuss how you will manage your finances once the honeymoon is over? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about dealing with finances after walking down the aisle.

Should my spouse and I keep separate bank accounts or should we consolidate?

While you may be inclined to keep separate bank accounts, there are many advantages to pooling your funds into one account. A joint account forces you to be accountable to each other about where your money is going while separate accounts may encourage unnecessary spending under your partner's radar. A joint account also may help you stick to your budget and help you determine if your budget is realistic or needs to be adjusted.

How much money should we be saving?

A good rule of thumb is to save 10 percent of your gross income through automatic monthly withdrawals deposited into an IRA, a 401(k) or other investment account. In addition, you should have a minimum of three months worth of expenses readily available for emergency expenses. It is also important to maximize contributions to your 401(k) or IRA plan, if you have one.

My spouse has a 401(k) account. Is that enough?

If you or your spouse have a 401(k) account offered by your employer, at a minimum you should be investing in the plan up to the level where you get the employer's full matching contribution. You should also have a savings plan outside your 401(k) so that you can have immediate access to funds without penalty and so won't be tempted to dip into your retirement savings. If you are not eligible to contribute to a 401(k) plan, investing in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) may be a good option for retirement savings.

Now that I'm married, do I need life insurance?

Yes, if you are married you should purchase enough life insurance to cover your salary in case of death. If you do have children, a general rule is to purchase enough life insurance to cover eight times your combined annual salaries.

I'm a conservative investor and my spouse is more aggressive ... what should we do?

You should first sit down with your spouse and identify what your financial goals are. Your investment portfolio should then reflect how much risk both of you are willing to take in achieving those goals. A financial consultant can help you plan a strategy that includes investments with which you both feel comfortable. You also should diversify your portfolio to include various types of investments with different levels of risk.

My spouse and I have a tough time agreeing on how much money should be spent on discretionary items such as clothes and dining out. How can we get on the same page financially?

You and your spouse should develop a monthly list of all of your fixed expenses such as mortgage payments, car payments and utility bills. Then, after allocating money from your salaries to these expenses, take a look at what is left. From there you can develop a budget to address what will be spent on more discretionary items such as clothes, hobbies and entertainment. By creating a concrete written budget, it will make it harder to justify any spending that was not agreed upon.

Editor's note: Jay Torgerson is a financial consultant and accredited asset management specialist with AG Edwards & Sons in Salem. Questions and comments can be directed to him by telephone at (800) 553-1023 or by email at jay.torgerson@agedwards.com.

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