40% of newlyweds didn't know their spouse's credit score before getting married

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Financial secrets newlyweds keep

You'd think most couples preparing to tie the knot would sit down and discuss their finances. But a new Experian study reveals that isn't the case at all. In fact, some people (25% of survey participants) don't even know their spouse's annual income before getting married. And 40% didn't know their spouse's credit score ahead of time.

Some other surprising findings from Experian's study: One-third of participants said their spouse's spending habits aren't what they expected and one-third also didn't know the amount of their spouse's student loan debt.

Avoiding the money talk can be potentially problematic for relationships — and lead to financial woes down the road. While your spouse's credit history has no bearing on yours unless you open a joint account together (in which case information related to that account will appear on both of your credit reports), you may have to endure some of the consequences of their bad credit scores — or their bad habits — together. For instance, if you try to jointly secure a home loan, your spouse's negative credit history — due to unpaid credit cards or student loan debt, for instance — could cost your more in points and interest.

Experian's online survey was conducted by Edelman Berland on behalf of the credit bureau from Jan. 21 to Feb. 1, 2016, among 1,000 adults in the U.S. who have been newly married within the past year. (It is not based on a probability sample; therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated, Experian said.)

Per its findings, 39% of participants said credit scores have already put a strain on their marriage while 23% remain concerned about developing a budget.

As such, it can be important for you and your spouse to know where you stand financially. (You can view your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.) Not only can this help you avoid a surprise later on, you'll be able to work honestly toward your financial goals.

Related: 6 simple ways to start investing today

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40% of newlyweds didn't know their spouse's credit score before getting married

1. Establish an emergency fund 

Before you can do anything, you need actual cash saved. This may seem like common sense, but based on recent data from the department of commerce, the americans save 5.8% of their disposable income on average. Before you begin investing, you should have an emergency cash fund set aside, equal to 3-4 months of your salary. This would cover expenses if you lose your job, experience a medical emergency, need unexpected major repairs, etc. 

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2. Maintain a budget

Saving money is easier said than done. The easiest way to save money each month is to develop a budget to track your income and expenses over time, then you can ultimately establish a projected savings rate that you are comfortable with. Mint is an easy free tool (plus an app) that I personally use. Link up your bank, credit cards and other financial accounts, and it will automatically keep track of your transactions. Mint helps you identify how much you spend each month (and where the money is going).

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3. Contribute to a 401(k)

Once you have established an emergency fund and have excess cash, the next step is to actually begin the investment process. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan for retirement, and especially if your employer matches contributions, think of this as the easiest way to get started investing. Otherwise you leave free money on the table from your employer. 

Employers offer two options: Traditional (you'll pay taxes on that money only if/when you withdraw it) or Roth (all contributions are made with money you've already been taxed on) options. Do further research or consult a financial advisor about which option is best for you, it will depend on your age and level of income. 

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4. Establish an IRA 

If your company doesn't offer a 401(k) plan, companies like Charles Schwab, E*Trade and Scottrade can establish your individual retirement accounts (ira) with a traditional or roth option. Next, you'll deposit funds and choose items/funds to invest in. 

I suggest low cost ETFs or mutual funds that track entire sectors of the economy in order to minimize fees and stay diversified. Picking individual stocks is extremely risky, and even people that have years of experience and education get in trouble for doing this." 

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5. Tuck it away

"hold onto your investments for the long term, especially if you have purchased a mutual fund or etf that is well diversified. Over time, these should grow with the overall economy. Short term investing carries risks, and even the best and brightest can't "time" the stock market. 

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6. Establish a retail account

If you are not investing for retirement, consider this step (through online brokerage companies like Charles SchwabE*Trade and Scottrade etc.). There are no tax-deffered or tax-deductible benefits to these like a 401(k) or IRA, but you can access the money at any time with no penalty. This is great if you are saving for a major purchase like a home. 401(k)s or IRAs can only be accessed without a penalty at certain ages in preparation for retirement. You can also establish a 529 plan if you are saving for a child's college education. 

Photo: Waiting on Martha 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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