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Money and Marriage: The 3 Lists Couples Need

In my family, I tend to pay all of the bills. But if something happened to me, I feel comfortable that my husband could take over our finances without too much stress. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most households.

According to a recent Fidelity survey, only 17% of couples are "completely confident" that either spouse is prepared to assume responsibility of their joint finances in retirement. And only 35% of wives say they are "completely confident" that they can take care of the household retirement finances. Clearly, this is troubling news.

One way to solve for this problem is for couples to hire a professional adviser to help them with their finances. Then, when it comes time for the annual account meeting, both spouses should be present. Hiring an estate planning attorney also helps.

I have a feeling that a little disclosure and organization would also help spouses feel more confident with the household finances. That's why I believe every family should have a financial cheat sheet that both partners can access at any time.

What should you include on this cheat sheet? Here are three lists every couple should make:

1. Bank Account Information
First, list all of the household's financial accounts, including the full name of the institutions and the corresponding account numbers. (Make sure to include both joint and separate accounts.) Next to each item, write a short description of what the money is intended for. For example, type retirement along side your employer sponsored 401(k). Last, include a web address and password for the accounts you access online.

2. Credit Card Information

Make another list of your credit and debit cards. For each one, include the issuer's name, full account number and pin code. This will help spouses keep track of bills and easily identify if there is an erroneous account -- think identity theft -- on a credit report. In other words, if the card isn't on your household list, it shouldn't turn up on your Experian report.

3. Insurance Policy Information
Finally, make a detailed list of all of your insurance information. Remember to include health, disability, homeowner, auto and life insurance policies. Then write down account numbers and any contact information, such as the phone number for customer service, that might come in handy. And when it comes to life insurance, don't forget to include coverage you receive from your employer.

Armed with these documents, even the least financially savvy spouse can take over the basic household finances and hire a professional to do the rest.

How do you and your spouse organize and keep track of your finances?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Money, Money, Money image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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