When couples are first starting out, the road ahead can look so bright, so new, so unencumbered by the unforeseen. It can almost seem like nothing could go wrong.
Or maybe not -- these days, with both grocery store clerks and stock brokers seeing pink slips at record rates, it's become rather obvious that financial security is, well, not all that secure. Those who find themselves without a cushion can end up in really hot water if one or both spouses' jobs disappear, or if a health emergency arises.
Putting money aside is a necessity. An emergency fund should hold at least three months' worth of living expenses, and preferably more. This kind of cushion can be the difference between serious, long-term debt and a temporary setback.
An emergency fund, though -- kept in an interest-bearing account -- is just one of the necessary recipients of the money you set aside. If you plan to buy your own home, you'll need to start building up that down payment as soon as possible. There's also retirement, which may seem pretty far off now but can really sneak up on you. One of the worst surprises couples can face is an unfunded retirement, and most experts recommend putting 10 percent of every paycheck, or else whatever you can afford, starting now, into a tax-deferred retirement fund to make sure you're not caught off guard a few decades from now.
And finally, a somewhat unpleasant but very important task for the new couple ...