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Getting married is exciting, but this new status can change many aspects of your finances. Whether it’s taxes, a prenuptial agreement, or splitting bills and debts, there’s a lot to consider and some pitfalls to avoid.

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“Research has consistently shown that money causes more financial stress for women than men and that women report feeling less financially secure,” said Tina DeGustino, consumer strategy expert at BMO.

DeGustino cited the BMO Real Financial Progress Index released earlier this year, which found that only 68 percent of women, compared to men, say they share financial responsibilities with their partner, while 50 percent of women share the management of day-to-day finances, such as paying bills.

“Against this backdrop — and despite recent gains in pay, education and the workplace — the findings underscore the ongoing challenges women face in achieving financial security and long-term wealth,” DeGustino said. “But there are several steps married women can take now to take control of their money and make real financial progress.”

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Know what you have and how to access it

The most important thing married women should do with their money is know exactly what they have, where it is and how to access it, says Bobbi Rebell, certified financial planner (CFP), founder of Financial Wellness Strategies and author of “Launching Financial Grownups: Live Your Richest Life by Helping Your (Almost) Adult Kids Be Everyday Money Smart.”

“Too often, women withdraw from their financial affairs after marriage and let their partner take the lead,” said Rebell. “If they ask questions about money, they are accused of distrust of their partner. It is difficult but important to insist on financial transparency.”

Still, she said there are questions and possible scenarios that need to be considered.

“What if something were to happen to your husband? Are you ready, willing and truly able to step in and take responsibility? Staying informed and aware of everything related to your finances is the most responsible thing you can do as a partner,” Rebell said.

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Understand your taxes

Another important step for married women is to become familiar with how they file their taxes so they can adjust their tax deductions.

“For example, if you file jointly or as a married couple, you can adjust your W4,” Rebell said. “With that in mind, make sure you read all of your tax documents before you sign them.”

She explained that even a harmless mistake when signing a tax form could get you in trouble – and many spouses have gotten into trouble because they signed tax documents without really understanding what they were signing.

“If it is your signature, you bear the responsibility,” she said.

Invest in yourself and plan for yourself

BMO’s DeGustino also stressed that since women tend to live longer than men, it is crucial for you and your partner to have life insurance and a will.

“It’s important to think about saving money for your retirement, long-term care and just as an emergency fund for unexpected events,” she said.

For example, DeGustino said that if financially possible, it is crucial to have a safety net of eight months’ expenses to ensure one’s financial progress.

If you don’t already have one, open a bank account and credit card in your name – and keep it in good standing to ensure you have a solid credit score, she said

“It’s also important that your bank or third-party provider has a credit monitoring service to build, improve or track your credit score so it’s in optimal shape when needed,” DeGustino said.

Consider a postnup

Much has been said about prenuptial agreements, but some experts say if you’re married and wondering whether you should take further steps to protect your finances, you may also want to consider a postnuptial agreement.

“A postnuptial agreement is a contract similar to a prenuptial agreement, but is drawn up after the marriage,” says Jamie Berger, a matrimonial and family law attorney at Jacobs Berger.

Berger said that both agreements guarantee spouses a say in the distribution of their assets in the event of a divorce, but a postnuptial agreement has no time limit; couples can draw up such a contract as soon as a week or several years after their wedding.

Whether you entered the marriage with money or acquired it over time, drafting a postnuptial agreement is a good way to start (or continue) a conversation about what’s important to you and your partner and what would be fair in the event of a divorce, Berger says.

“Remember that planning for the ‘if’ does not make your marriage more likely to fail,” she said. “These conversations actually give you and your spouse some reassurance that you have thought through your finances and how you will address issues in your divorce should it come to that.”

Invest in a pension fund early in your career

Another important aspect to consider is retirement planning. According to Berger, a personal retirement plan allows women to maintain their lifestyle, cover long-term expenses and more, even in old age.

“Whether you choose an employer-provided 401(k) plan or start a fund on your own, open an account as soon as possible and start building that fund,” she said – noting that the quality of life you had planned for your retirement would inevitably change in the event of a divorce and the loss of your partner’s income.

“Set this up as early as possible for long-term success,” she said.

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This article originally appeared on 5 Things All Married Women Need to Do With Their Money

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